Gov. Edwards orders schools closed for the remainder of the school year

On April 15th Governor John Bel Edwards signed a proclamation closing K-12 public schools in Louisiana to students until the end of the current school year, with students getting their education via remote learning, as the state continues to fight the spread of COVID-19.

“Closing public schools in Louisiana for the remainder of the year is not a choice I was excited to make, but it is one that is necessary to protect the safety of our children, our teachers and staff and the community at large,” Gov. Edwards said. “But, I want to be clear about something: This isn’t the end of learning, it’s just the end of students physically going to school campuses for the remainder of the semester. Remote learning will continue and, we will all work together to make sure that our students do not fall behind academically. In addition, we expect that school systems will continue to provide nutrition and meals for students.”

“To our students, I want to thank you for learning in such trying times, and I want to thank our teachers for committing to remote learning and keeping a connection with you. It is not lost on me that our parents are being asked to manage so much more than they ever expected they would have to, and I thank them for taking an even more active role in their children’s education than normal,” Gov. Edwards said. “And to our soon-to-be graduates: I do not have the words to tell you how proud I am of you for your accomplishments, especially under such hard and unconventional circumstances. We will properly celebrate you in time, when it is safe. We will all get through this together and we will come back stronger than we were before.”


Jackson Parish Recreation Department still waiting for approval to start summer leagues

The fields are all mowed and the lines have been drawn but there is still no baseball or softball games being played at the Jackson Parish Recreation Department. Furthermore it doesn’t look like the summer leagues will begin any time soon according to Director Tommy Smith.

“We are ready to go as soon as we get the approval to do so,” said Smith. “Until the state directors for Little League and Dixie Youth give us the go ahead though there is nothing we can do.”

On a positive note the golf course located in Hodge is now once again open for play in a limited capacity. Playing rules state that only one person is allowed per cart and that there are no carts available for rent. It is asked that you call the pro shop at the course before you come to ensure a tee time.


BESE President issues statement regarding closure of school facilities

Sandy Holloway, Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) president, issued the following statement in response to Governor Edwards extending the closure of school facilities for the remainder of the school year:

“With the announcement of statewide school facilities closure for the rest of this academic year, we call on school districts to ensure learning for all students and the continuation of food service. We must now move ahead with a sense of urgency and thoughtfulness in developing plans for the future that address and correct learning gaps resulting from COVID-19.

As such, I have tapped BESE Members Ashley Ellis and Preston Castille to take the lead for the Board in liaising with the Louisiana Department of Education as they outline an academic plan for the future. BESE remains committed to prioritizing students, their learning, and engaging stakeholders as our state navigates these unchartered waters.

There will be many opportunities and challenges ahead as we continue to work together during these uncertain times; in the meantime, schools and school systems need to be supported in their decisions in providing services to all populations of students, encouraging the use of materials and resources that are already in use.”

BESE is the administrative policymaking body for elementary and secondary schools in Louisiana. The Board sets key education initiatives and works to outline an education agenda to achieve continuous improvement of public education as measured by student and school achievement.

Four with Jackson Parish ties named LHSAA Composite Academic All-State

Their spring sports senior season may have gotten wiped out by the decision to cancel the school year due to the Coronavirus epidemic but that didn’t stop four with ties to Jackson Parish from completing their academic requirements in fine fashion.

As result Lauren Menzina and Clayton Guyotte of Cedar Creek who has family ties in Jackson Parish, Luke Beamesderfer of Weston and Sha’Taylor Reed of Quitman were named to the LHSAA Composite Academic All-State team after ending their senior season with perfect 4.0 grade point averages. Menzina, who will continue her playing career at Louisiana Tech made the elite team in softball. Guyotte and Beamesderfer were selected in baseball and Reed was named in girls track.

Louisiana state School Superintendent emphasizes need for continued learning

Following Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’s announcement to extend the closure of school facilities to students for the duration of the 2019-2020 academic calendar year, Acting State Superintendent Beth Scioneaux issued a statement emphasizing the need for continued learning and for strong preparation for the 2020-2021 school year.

“We respect the decision of the Governor to extend the closure of school facilities to students for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year to ensure the health and safety of our citizens. Learning, however, must continue. Every community needs a plan for continued learning.

The Louisiana Department of Education is committed to supporting school systems in the continued development and implementation of those plans to ensure every child is engaged for the remainder of this school year and fully prepared to enter the next grade.

The next six weeks are also critical planning time for a strong start in 2020-2021. At the start of the 2020-2021 school year, Louisiana must prepare to:

  1. Identify every child’s learning level;
  2. Implement a plan to ensure every child is ready to build on that learning level, including strategies for extra academic time and continued use of high-quality curriculum; and
  3. Support the Class of 2020 in the successful transition to life after high school graduation.

The Department will provide programmatic support and coordinate financial support to achieve these ambitions. Our children, our families, and our educators deserve nothing less.”

The statement comes after the Department issued guidance to school systems regarding the Class of 2020 and distance education opportunities for all students, including those with disabilities. Following consultation with school system leaders, the Department plans to issue guidance related to retaining and promoting students in grades Kindergarten through 11, as well as to ensuring access to technology for all students.


Alli Freeman earns second team small school All-NELA honors

After leading Cedar Creek to a Division IV state semi-final appearance Alli Freeman has been name to the ALL-NELA small school second team as selected by the New Star in Monroe. The senior who also earned All-State honorable mention honors and whose parents Scott and Sonya Freeman hail from Jackson Parish averaged 12 points, 13 rebounds and 3.2 steals per game to help the Lady Cougars go 28-5 on the season.

Teammate Sarah Adams earned first team honors along with MVP Emily Wertz and Conleigh Laseter from Ouachita Christian whose coach Stan Humphries was named Coach of the Year after guiding his team to a 35-1 record and a second place finish in Division IV. Tasionna McDaniel of Delhi and Tierra Spurs of Ferriday rounded out the first team. Additional second team selections were Jayden Ellerman – OCS, Pashonnay Johnshon – St. Frederick, Ashanti May – Delhi and Amari West – Rayville.


Severe thunderstorms cause power outages in Jackson Parish

The damage wasn’t near as bad in Jackson Parish as was felt in the Monroe area but the severe line of thunderstorms that swept through north Louisiana this past Sunday left its mark locally as many were left without power for several hours.

Fortunately no injuries were reported but power lines and trees were downed with the brunt of the damage being felt east of Highway 167 and throughout the eastern part of the parish. Thanks to the tremendous effort of Entergy crews 98% of Jackson Parish had their power restored the same day.

The worst of the damage seemed to be centered in Ouachita Parish where hundreds of homes and the Monroe Regional Airport received extensive damage. According to Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo upward to 300 homes received damage in Monroe, West Monroe and Ouachita Parish but although there were several injuries because of the storm no deaths were reported.


23 now test positive for COVID-19 in Jackson Parish

According to reports provided by the Jackson Sheriff’s Office (JPSO)on April 14th there are now 23 people that have tested positive for the Coronavirus. These numbers are different from the nine that has been reported by the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).

“While the LDH has a different total than what we show our numbers are the ones that are correct,” said Sheriff Andy Brown. “The information we have posted comes from our local hospital and area medical professionals.”

Sheriff Brown continues to stress the importance for everyone to stay at home unless it is essential that they be out along with practicing social distancing and follow all other CDC guidelines. The new numbers of those infected are up by 9 since the same time last week but are still some of the lowest totals reported across the state. There are still no deaths associated with the outbreak locally.


Bradford voted to Class 2A All-State First Team

Jonesboro-Hodge senior and Texas A&M signee LaDamien Bradford has been named first team All-State in Class 2A. The versatile 6’4” guard who led JHHS to a district 1-2A title and a state quarterfinal playoff appearance finished the season with a 24.5 points per game average which ranks as one of the highest single season scoring averages in school history.

Bradford was joined on the first team by one other north Louisiana player in 6’2” Kashie Natt of Rayville (22.0 ppg). Additional first team selection were 6’0” Carlos Stewart of state champion Dunham, who was named MVP of Class 2A after averaging 28.2 ppg., 6’6” Collin Holloway of Port Allen (18.5 ppg) and 6’4” Javon Ruffin of Newman (22.3 ppg).

Two more north Louisiana players were named to the second team in Lake Nate Braden of Lakeview and Jalen McDonald of Red River (Coushatta). Deshawn Jackson of Pickering, Ricky Vollan from Episcopal and Billy Francis Jr. out of Lafayette Christian rounded out the squad. Derrick Jones of Port Allen earned Coach of the Year honors.


Jackson Parish family gives daughter a special “Quarantine Prom”

It is one of the most memorable events in a teenager’s life. What is being referenced is the annual Junior/Senior Prom that is traditionally held each year at every high school across the nation each spring.

Girls shop for weeks for the perfect dress or have one custom made. Boys go to the men’s clothing store to get fitted for what for many of them is the first tuxedo they have ever worn. Yet this year this age old tradition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak that has caused schools and their activities to be shut down.

For Kari and Wayne Thomas of Quitman the thought of their graduating senior daughter, Ashton having to miss out on this special event this was just too much to take. As result they came up with a most novel idea. They decided to hold a “quarantine prom” at their home an event that will forever be treasured by their grateful daughter.

“I wasn’t really expecting it,” said Ashton in an interview with KNOE-TV news who did a feature story on the creative event this past Wednesday, April 8th. “When my father told me to go put on my prom dress I thought maybe he was planning on taking some pictures or something. When I came downstairs and they had the table set with my favorite food and the music was playing it was a really nice surprise.”


JHHS joins in remembering senior spring sports athletes

The lights are on but you’re not home…… lyrics from Addicted to Love by Robert Palmer

On April 13th the lights were turned on at football stadiums all across the nation including at Caldwell-Peacock Stadium at Jonesboro-Hodge High School in recognition of the prep spring sports athletes that because of the Coronavirus outbreak were forced to miss their senior season.

Those being remembered for not being able to participate are athletes that competed in baseball and softball as well as boys and girls track but due to the schools across the nation being closed were not able to have their final sports season conducted.

“I hate that these young athletes weren’t able to finish their high school career like they normally would have gotten to,” said JHHS Athletic Director Terrance Blankenship. “We wanted to participate in this so that our athletes know that our hearts go out to them.”

Creative local Pastor allows congregation to celebrate Easter

Since the founding of America churches all across the nation have traditionally been packed on Easter Sunday. Other than on Christmas there is no other time that Christians make it a point to go to the church of their choice as they celebrate the rising of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately these days are not normal times as America deals with the Coronavirus and lives with the many social distancing restrictions that have crippled not only the economy but the ability for people to even go to church.

Thanks to the creativity of a local pastor one congregation was able to come together this past Easter and be able worship at their church. This was made able by Jonesboro-Hodge United Methodist pastor Paul Stearns who came up with an idea that not only allowed his congregation to worship at the church but also stay within the guidelines that have been handed down by federal authorities.

What the “out-of-the-box” thinking Pastor did was hold a sunrise service on the church grounds where his parishioners stayed in their cars in the parking lot while he conducted Sunday service.

“For the last couple of weeks we have not been able to hold service as we are used to,” said Stearns. “I felt it was vitally important that especially on this day that our congregation had the opportunity to come and worship.”

About half of the congregation that normally attends showed up for the unique service and all were very appreciative of Stearns, who stood in front of the mass of parked vehicles to deliver his short but concise sermon.

“It was different to say the least,” said one in attendance who echoed the sentiments of all there. “Still it allowed us to worship on this very important day and I am very grateful for the Pastor for thinking up this idea. “


Jay Watson named head football coach at Winnfield High School

As a leader on the offensive line for Jonesboro-Hodge High School from 1986-89 Jay Watson helped the Tigers win three straight state championships and reach the semi-finals in another. Now he hopes to lead another group of Tigers to the same hallowed ground.

Only this time it will be as head coach of Winnfield where this past Friday he was named head football coach and athletic director. The appointment was a “dream-come-true” for Watson who has wanted to be in this position ever since he was a player.

“I have wanted this for a long time and am very thankful to finally be in this position,” said Watson in an interview with the Jackson Parish Journal. “I can’t wait to get started.”

While this is Watson’s first opportunity to be a head coach and athletic director it is during his second stint at Winnfield that he has gotten the chance. As soon as he graduated from Northwestern State University where he played for two years he became an assistant at Winnfield where he stayed from 1997-2005. For six of those years he served as defensive coordinator.

“Not only am I very glad to get the chance to be a head coach it makes it even more special that I will be coaching here,”  added Watson. “I have a long history here with many great memories.”

While reminiscing on his coaching journey over the past twenty some odd years (WHS 1997-2005, JHHS 2006-09, West Ouachita (2010-16), Ruston Jr. High (2017-18) and at Winnfield again last year Watson made it a point  to mention several people that were so very important in him being where he is today.

“First and foremost I want to start with Joey Pender,” reflected Watson. “I am the coach I am today because of him. He has been a mentor of mine since I was a player and I only hope to be the kind of coach that he was. He taught a player how to compete in football but in life as well.”

“I also am thankful for my coaching staff while I was playing for Jonesboro-Hodge. I can’t tell you how fortunate I was to have coaches like Pender, Walter Causey, Jimmie Davis, Ted Reeves and Roy Barlow, “ said Watson. “It was a who’s who among great men who dedicated their lives to helping their players win in everything they did as a high schooler and as an adult. I hope I will make them proud.”

With his wife Rachael (Ponder), who is the nursing coordinator at the Jackson Parish Correctional Center and the children: Avery (10), Jayse (9) and Landrie (4) Jackson Parish is still is home and Watson says he always still pulls for JHHS and that will continue – except one weekend each season.

It is a guarantee that among the many friends he has from his playing and coaching days at Jonesboro-Hodge they will do the same for Watson – except for that same weekend.


Jeane and Womack named Honorable Mention All-State in Class B

The season ended earlier than Mason Jeane and Clara Womack of Quitman wanted it to but their contribution to the success of their squads was duly noted as evidenced by the QHS pair earning Honorable Mention Class B All-State designation as voted on by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.
For Jeane it is a fitting end to a strong career that saw him hold his own in head to head competition with the premier post players from the past two state champions in district play. Womack, who is one of north Louisiana’s premier three-point threats, will get another chance to improve her standing among the state’s elite next year.

The Most Valuable Players in Class B for the boys were Decari Markray of state champion Doyline with additional first teamers being Jackemin Abney and Kalep Crane from Simsboro, Garrett Edwards of Pitkin and Shaquay Clark of J.S. Clark Leadership Academy. Coach of the Year was Michael Normand of Doyline

On the girls side Rylee Jinks of Fairview was named MVP with Hathaway head coach Courtnee Young beinf named Coach of the Year. Additional first team selections were Maggie Manuel of Fariview, Gracie Sylvia of Florien and Vanessa Duhe from Lacassine.