Louisiana news briefs
Terrebonne teacher vacancies above state average
HOUMA (AP) — As Terrebonne Parish continues to focus on teacher recruitment, state statistics show the number educators leaving district schools remains slightly higher than the state average.
To remedy the problem, school officials have discussed proposing a tax increase to help in the recruitment effort.
School Superintendent Philip Martin said talent acquisition is an extremely instrumental part of the system’s operation because teachers are the most important factor of student achievement.
In past two years, state data shows 15 percent of teachers left the district because of retirement, salary or accepting a position elsewhere. That’s 3 percentage points higher than the statewide.
Martin says being able to pay new recruits more would help fill the openings with quality teachers to supplement the loss felt by those who have retired.
Board gives principals
some leeway in hiring
LAFAYETTE (AP) — The Lafayette Parish School Board has voted to give principals and other supervisors authority to make some hiring decisions that have been left in limbo for the past few weeks, although the school system is still facing job cuts.
The board voted Tuesday to save 17 social worker and 37 instructional strategist jobs that were on the chopping block to balance what remains as a more than $7 million budget shortfall. Employees report to school on Aug. 5 — a week ahead of students’ return Aug. 12.
Matt Dugas, finance director, said after the meeting the full impact of the board’s decision Tuesday had not yet been calculated, but prior to the vote, the board chipped its $7.3 million shortfall down to $7.2 million.
Crowley police arrest
suspect in fatal shooting
CROWLEY (AP) — Crowley police say they have arrested one person and expect to make further arrests in a fatal shooting.
Police Chief K.P. Gibson said 22-year-old Shedrick Robinson, of Crowley, was booked Monday night on one count of second-degree murder in the shooting death of 23-year-old Ryan Gums.
Gibson says Gums, also of Crowley, was shot multiple times in his upper torso and died at the scene.
Gibson says detectives are still investigating a motive in the shooting death.
Charges upgraded in Catahoula Parish murder case
HARRISONBURG (AP) — Two suspects arrested in the death and dismemberment of a Louisiana woman have been booked with first-degree murder.
Law enforcement officials upgraded the charges from second-degree murder on Tuesday.
Catahoula Parish Sheriff James Kelly says 36-year-old Daniel White, of Sterlington, and 30-year-old Leah Marie Pontiff, of Monroe, were arrested two weeks ago in the death of 29-year-old Gwendolyn McIntosh, of Sterlington.
Kelly says the motive for the death is still unknown,
Human remains were uncovered at the site near Sicily Island and were taken to the LSU Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services, which assists law enforcement agencies with the recovery and identification of human remains.
Kelly says Pontiff lead officers to the remains.
Hearing for suspect
in Bourbon St. shootings
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A hearing date of July 23 has been set in New Orleans for a suspect in the Bourbon Street gunfight that killed one person and wounded nine others.
Twenty-year-old Trung Le of Belle Chasse is being held in Orleans Parish Prison. Although the judge set bonds totaling $4.5 million on nine counts of attempted first-degree murder, Le is being held without bond on a single count of first-degree murder.
Police have said Le is suspected of firing the first shot in a shooting spree that fatally injured a young Hammond woman who was among those strolling Bourbon Street early on the morning of June 29.
The search continues for a so-far unidentified second gunman.
Le’s public defender has declined comment in the case.
Convicted ex-New Orleans mayor files appeal notice
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin filed a formal notice of appeal Tuesday in the corruption case that resulted in a guilty verdict on 20 criminal counts and a prison sentence of 10 years.
The brief notice said the appeal will cover the verdict, the sentence and an order that Nagin forfeit over $500,000 acquired illegally, as well as court rulings prior to the verdict.
The notice was filed in U.S. District Court, and the appeal will be considered by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Nagin, a Democrat, was convicted in February on charges including conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, wire fraud and filing false tax returns. The charges stem from his two terms as mayor from 2002 to 2010 — including the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005.
Nagin is to report to a federal prison on Sept. 8.
Peach Fest drew 18,500
RUSTON (AP) — This year’s Louisiana Peach Festival drew 18,500 people to its two-day event held last month and had an economic impact of $2.5 million, according to figures released by the Ruston-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber, which coordinates the annual celebration, said 32 percent of the attendees were from Lincoln Parish; 44 percent from Louisiana but outside the parish and 24 percent came from out-of-state.
Chamber President Judy Copeland said the data is gathered from random surveys over the course of the event, as well as from gate receipts and other sources. “One family drove from Ohio after hearing about the festival’s reputation for a good time,” she said.
Sixty-two percent of attendees were repeat visitors, and plan to attend next year, the survey found. The festival, which marked its 64th run this year, is one of the oldest agriculture festivals in Louisiana. It has the largest economic impact of any single event in Lincoln Parish.
Copeland said the economic impact represents not only money spent directly at the festival but also on shopping, taxes collected from vendors, money spent to produce the event and hotel stays. Ruston hotel rooms were sold out both Friday and Saturday nights, she said.
“While approximately half that number were in downtown Ruston enjoying the parade, carnival, concerts and amusements, and visiting downtown merchants, others attended Louisiana Peach Festival activities such as the 25th anniversary of the rodeo, 5K and Fun Run, tennis and bass tournaments, kids’ fishing tournament, quilting contest displays, fine arts show, diaper derby and baby photo contest, a concert by Ruston’s own Russtown Band, cookery contest, and the 30 years running Beta Sigma Phi Arts and Crafts show,” Copeland said.
Copeland thanked festival sponsors, volunteers, merchants and others who helped produce the event.
“We will continue to work hard to produce a festival you can always be proud of,” she said. “Thank you for letting us serve you.”