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June 12, 2019

Jonesville Mayor receives salary increase to $30,0000 annually and School Superintendent sends letters to comply with desegregation order

Last week two of Catahoula Parish’s government meetings made great strides causing unrest among many people of the parish and the Town of Jonesville residents.
 In last Tuesday night’s School Board meeting, Superintendent Ronnie Lofton somewhat explained why letters were mailed to parents whose physical address did not match their school districts. Superintendent Lofton explained to me that all transfers must be filed each year with the school board. Mr. Lofton said he is making sure all students at each campus have the correct and legitimate status so the parish can comply with the Desegregation Order. Since Catahoula is still under a Federal Desegregation Order all school districts must enforce attendance/district  zone lines. In simpler terms your children can ONLY attend the school in your district. No more crossing the lines without a medically approved reason or provisional custody.
Each family will have to provide proof of residency, mortgage, etc.  and this is where their homestead exemption is filed with the parish. For families with multiple homes, the residency will be considered where the family resides during the week. He also said that home visits will be conducted, as was done during his previous term as superintendent.
I asked Mr. Lofton if he thinks this  may cause us to lose any students to private schools or charter schools outside of Catahoula Parish taking MFP funds with them.  He quickly answered that this will be a personal and family choice but he hopes the parents will be see the changes that have been put in place, especially at the BHS campus and the increase in certified teachers there and at all Catahoula campuses. Lofton added,  “I hope they will stay here and be a part of the change coming to our schools.”
We also talked about the MFP funds (Minimal Foundation Program) which is the amount the school board receives for each child enrolled. The approximate amount of MFP money per student right now is $7,498. The first student count for this coming school year will be in October 2019. This student count will be compared to February of 2019 and the MFP money will be adjusted according the loss or gain of students. The second student count will be in February of 2020 and the funds will be adjusted by half with the decrease or increase of student numbers.
If we loose any students this will certainly effect the budget which will effect all areas of our education system.
Mr Lofton is correct in his actions because it is the law. It is his job to enforce these laws and maintain a legal system to be fair to each student and each family while making sure each campus is safe for each student and equal education is provided throughout the parish.
I asked him about what I called a bonus for teachers at Block. He explained there is still grant money available in the budget for this. As an incentive to retain and attract certified teachers at Block, this $1786 bonus will be given to each certified teacher with a two year signed contract. In last weeks meeting Lofton explained if a teacher signs this contract but leaves before mid-term the full amount  will have to be returned and if a teachers leaves after mid-term but before the end of the first school year then half of the bonus must be returned.
If there has not been an full time principal added to the roster, Mr. Boundrant has agreed to start the year as BHS principal and stay until this position can be filled.
Lofton said of the Catahoula Schools, board members, faculty, students, and families, “It will take all of us working together and working hard to make our schools better and to bring back out students and our families, but I am certain we can do it.”
The other meeting mentioned in the first paragraph is the Town of Jonesville’s mayor salary.
Mayor Milton Ceasar asked the town council to give him a pay raise after only three days in office. This was tabled  at a January Special Meeting and the council give a few reasons for postponing a vote, mainly to see where the town is financially before giving money that may be needed later, and also it was mentioned the council and the people wanted to first see if a pay raise was warranted for his work as mayor.
The second time the pay raise was on the agenda, March meeting, there was one council member absent, Mr. Vault, and if it were to be a tied vote, the Mayor could not be the tie breaker giving himself a raise. So in reviewing the March Town of Jonesville meeting from CNB’s Facebook live feed video archives, anyone can go back and watch, Councilman Mr. Bruce Lofton requested it be tabled until the first quarterly report was given to ensure the Town could afford the pay raise and Council women Bullitts and Holland wanted all five council members to be present to vote and also get the first quarter finance report.
But in last Thursday’s second special meeting, the first was Tuesday night but canceled because of no quorum, and with three members present the vote was two for the raise and one against, raising Mayor Ceasar’s salary to $30,000. And the members in the audience were upset because they were at the other meetings and knew the request for all five members to be present was ignored. The raise is in place and we are excepting many positive actions from Jonesville’s mayor and the council to ensure the taxpayers are truly getting what they are paying for and more to ensure economic growth for Jonesville.
The Town’s attorney, Ms Ruby Freeman, took it upon herself to gavel down two ladies in the audience for being out of order. This is not the attorney’s job. Freeman did apologize to both ladies on the record before the meeting adjourned.
Also there was a great discussion about parliamentary process known to most as Roberts Rule of Order when the mayor wanted to keep the people from voicing their opinions and asking questions while the council was discussing each agenda item. Many good points to not allow this was made by the audience but the most important was that Robert’s Rule had to be followed and this would keep the meeting in order. Ms Freeman agreed the proper parliamentary procedure is that the motion and second of an agenda item opened it up for council discussion and the discussion would then be opened to the public floor. After the discussion the vote takes place. 
This is something the town council has always done and the citizens have always had a voice. And it was very clear the taxpayers of the new pay scale do not want this to change.