Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. recapped some of his administration’s accomplishments to members of the Natchitoches Parish Voters and Civic League Aug. 9. He led by reminding attendees of the constraints imposed by scarcity, and the need to prioritize goals. He then focused on grants and other awards received by the city, which tallied up to more than $20 million in federal funding awarded for projects ranging from improvements to the Natchitoches Regional Airport and renovations to Richardson Park to the receipt of a RAISE grant that will fund a multitude of infrastructure improvements around the city.
Williams outlined future priorities of his administration such as reducing poverty, improving the city’s drinking water supply, reducing crime and providing quality of life improvements within the city. He told attendees the city would be welcoming the nonprofit youth mentoring organization Big Brothers, Big Sisters to provide children with role models and guidance. Williams also revealed the city will be visited by directors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Louisiana Housing Corporation for consultations on how to expand housing availability and achieve progress in economic development.
During the mayor’s question and answer session, John Robertson expressed concern about children facing transportation barriers to enjoyment of community amenities and financial barriers to participation in school extracurricular activities, and Marselette Roberson informed the mayor of drainage problems she encounters on Amanda Street. Williams stated that funds from the RAISE grant would be put toward drainage and other improvements and the city was exploring ways of providing small scale transportation solutions and promoting a bicycle culture.
School Board member Dorothy McGaskey spoke next and used the opportunity to address problems parents have faced in registering their children for the 2022-23 school year. Among the district’s accomplishments, she listed enhanced identification and support for SPED students, the integration of progress reports into the school’s curriculum and the deployment of social workers to school campuses. She also revealed that School Board members attended a tri-state conference on bullying and suicide prevention.
McGaskey outlined the school district’s plan to improve parish schools by expanding counseling services, providing students with access to classroom tutors, emphasizing school safety and placing renewed emphasis on offering music and art programs. She also highlighted the fact that 85% of the district’s previously uncertified teachers had obtained suitable credentials and referenced state LEAP scores showing Natchitoches Parish as one of four school districts in the state with the highest measure of improvement in test scores.
Randy Stelly offered to sponsor the membership of 10 young people to join the Natchitoches Parish Civic and Voter’s League by paying the $10 cost of annual dues on their behalf to encourage a younger generation to develop greater political awareness.
The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 13.