Louisiana news briefs
‘Innovative Schools’ plan presented to board
BATON ROUGE (AP) — East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Bernard Taylor told the school board he hopes to solicit proposals to create new schools in order to head off growing competition from charter schools.
Taylor said he’s concerned that charters schools are eating up an increasing share of his funding, potentially at the expense of day-to-day operations, and he needs to develop a viable, affordable alternative.
The alternative, which Taylor presented Thursday, is something he’s calling “Innovative Schools.” He said, unlike most charter schools, he wants school ideas that are not just “more of the same.”
Innovative Schools would function much like charter schools. Like charter schools, they would be public schools run by private organizations. They would have autonomy over instruction and picking their teams.
found Jan. 31 drowned
LAKE ARTHUR (AP) — Authorities say 27-year-old Lacie Fontenot, whose body was found Jan. 31 in a wooded area in Lake Arthur, drowned as a result of hypothermia.
Lake Arthur Police Chief Cheryl Vincent issued a statement Thursday reporting that Fontenot’s full-clothed body was found face-down in a foot of water in a wooded area.
According to the coroner’s report, there was no sign of struggle or injury on Fontenot’s body.
Vincent said detectives said witnesses saw or heard nothing suspicious or unusual leading up to the discovery of her body.
The Advertiser reports the autopsy released on Monday indicated that Fontenot had high levels of illegal controlled substance in her body when she died.
MoveOn keeps tourism slogan
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne wants a pro-Medicaid expansion group to stop using the state’s tourism marketing slogan in its billboard campaign.
Dardenne said a cease-and-desist notice has been issued to those behind the MoveOn group’s billboard, which plays on the state’s “Pick Your Passion” tourism message.
The new billboard funded by MoveOn members is on Interstate 10, outside of Baton Rouge.
It incorporates the state’s tourism promotion theme as it criticizes Gov. Bobby Jindal for refusing to expand Medicaid.
Acadia gas well capped,
EUNICE (AP) — An Acadia Parish natural gas well that blew out last week has been capped.
Louisiana State Police Troopoer Stephen Hammons says Texas-based Wild Well Control capped the well just before noon Thursday, ending an evacuation that had kept about 12 families out of their homes since Feb. 25.
Residents were allowed to return to the 1.5-mile area Thursday afternoon, accompanied by state Department of Environmental Quality staff who were testing the air in the homes to make sure it was safe.
Troopers say employees with Black Creek Drilling were drilling a natural gas well when they lost pressure, creating the blowout. It happened about 6 p.m. Feb. 25 on La. 13 just south of the Acadia Power Station.
No injuries were reported.
Free activities at Kisatchie Forest Day next week
ALEXANDRIA (AP) — The Kisatchie National Forest Day is set for March 15 as part of the month-long Central Louisiana Outdoor Adventure Festival.
The day will include free outdoor family activities including kayaking, yoga on the beach, a CrossFit workout, mountain biking, trail running and paddle boarding. There also will also be hands-on children’s activities provided by the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station.
The event is being held at the Kincaid Lake Recreation Area from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Coroner: Haley Howard drowned
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office says 19-year-old Hayley Howard’s official cause of death is drowning and that no foul play is suspected.
The University of New Orleans student’s body was found Wednesday in a car that was pulled from water near Interstate 10 and Irish Bayou. Police say Howard must have missed a guard rail, the tree line and the exit sign before hitting water.
Howard was last seen Saturday morning, when police say a group of Good Samaritans helped her fix a flat tire near UNO before she started driving east to Slidell.
The coroner’s office says toxicology tests will take two to three weeks to be completed
Bus driver suspended
in incident involving child
NEW ROADS (AP) — The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board has suspended a school bus driver for six months without pay and strip him of his tenure rights for leaving a 5-year-old student on his bus for several hours three months ago.
The board voted Thursday to suspend Roger Dixon, who has been employed by the school system for more than 20 years, rather than fire him.
The unanimous vote to suspend Dixon came after a motion to fire him failed in a 5-3 vote.
Dixon has been suspended from the school system since Dec. 16 after a Rosenwald Elementary pre-kindergarten student was left sleeping in the back of Dixon’s bus after he parked it that morning.
Walter Lee pleads not guilty
MANSFIELD (AP) — A former DeSoto Parish schools superintendent appeared Wednesday in state district court for arraignment on four felony charges.
Walter C. Lee, 79, pleaded not guilty to two counts of felony theft and one count each of public contract fraud and malfeasance in office.
The charges stem from allegations outlined in an investigative audit by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office.
Lee is accused of double-billing expenses to the school district and to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, on which he currently serves.
He’s also accused of personally benefiting from the return of a leased vehicle and intentionally performing his duties as a superintendent in an unlawful manner.
A pretrial date has been set for April 22.
Lee retired Nov. 2, 2012 from the school system but continues to serve on BESE. A felony conviction would require his resignation from BESE.
Lee surrendered to the DeSoto Parish sheriff’s office within hours of his indictment in January. He’s been free on a $50,000 cash bond.
District Attorney Richard Johnson said he’s had not had any contact with Lee’s attorney, Taylor Townsend, since Lee’s arrest.
Construction on ULL
student union on schedule
LAFAYETTE (AP) — Construction on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette student union remains on schedule to be completed by the end of the year.
Current work on the building includes completion of the building envelope — the glass work, storefront, curtain wall, brick veneer, metal wall panels and everything else that closes in the building from the elements.
Demolition of the original student union building, constructed in 1971, began at the end of 2012. The $36 million renovation and expansion project is part of the UL Master Plan and is being funded by self-assessed student fees.
The new building will include 128,000 square feet and will be closer to McKinley Street than the previous building to allow for more green space overlooking Cypress Lake at the back of the building.