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Sean Green

Sean Green is managing editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune.

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Finalists make case to be next chancellor

The applicant pool for the next chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College (BPCC) has been narrowed down to four finalists.
Vying for the position are Dr. Barbara Jones, Dr. Douglas “Rick” Bateman, Dr. Larissa Littleton-Steib and Dr. Kimberly A. Russell. An open and competitive search began last year after Dr. Jim Henderson accepted the job as President of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.
Each candidate was on campus last week for a series of forums for faculty, students, community members and business partners. In addition to the public forums, each candidate will interview privately with Louisiana Community and Technical College System President Monty Sullivan.
A selection of the next chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College is scheduled to be made at the LCTCS Board meeting on April 8.
Cadidates faced a variety of questions from community members, business leaders and BPCC stakeholders during the community forum. One final question, though, was asked by Donna Womack, Associate Vice Chancellor at BPCC – “You are here to ask Bossier Parish Community College to pick you as its next chancellor. Why did you choose BPCC?”

Read candidate responses to this question and more below.

Dr. Barbara Jones

barbara jones


Dr. Barbara Jones grew up in an Air Force family. Her dad was stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base and she attended Haughton Middle School then graduated from Haughton High School. Jones considers herself to be a product of Bossier Parish, having lived in the area for more than 30 years, starting a family and raising children here.

Jones was the division chair of allied health at Bossier Parish Community College in Bossier City from 1998 to 2003, and an instructor of allied health and life science at BPCC from 1991 to 2003.

She is a 2004 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, earning a doctorate in Administration, Curriculum, and Instruction with a specialization in Educational Leadership and Higher Education. She is a 1992 graduate of Louisiana State University Health Science Center in Shreveport, LA, earning a master’s degree in health science; and a 1981 graduate of Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe earning a bachelor’s degree in medical technology.

Jones served as the dean of instruction at Louisiana Delta Community College in Monroe, LA, a position that she held from 2003 to 2009. She also had held other collegiate administrative-level positions, including the presidency of the National Network of Health-Career Programs in Two-Year Colleges in 2004-2006.
Jones assumed the duties and responsibilities of President of South Arkansas Community College August 1, 2009, becoming the institution’s fourth president.

Jones said when it comes to a presidency position, it’s about finding a person that fits the job. She feels that her experience and history in the community make her an ideal candidate for the position.

“I have 34 years in this community, my kids grew up here, I have school connections already and I know the layout of this community. I’m ready to hit the ground running,” she said.

If selected chancellor, Jones said her number one goal is student success.

“Student success is measured in a lot of different ways,” Jones explained. “Whether a students is trying to earn a GED, workplace credentials or an associates degree, the focus is on the students. To me, starting at a new institution begins with listening a lot. Until you really visit with people, you really don’t know or understand what happens at a college.”

The role of chancellor, Jones continued, is to be the face of the college.

When asked why she chose BPCC, Jones referred back to her 34 year history in Bossier Parish.

“I would love to come back to Bossier. It’s home,” she said. “It’s good to see familiar faces in an area I know well. I feel like I can hit the ground running and contribute to the college. I’ve watched this college grow and I’m so proud. I think we can go even further and I would love to be part of it.”

Dr. Rick Bateman

rick bateman


Dr. Rick Bateman, Jr. currently serves as the Interim Director of Northwest Louisiana Technical College and Interim Chancellor at Bossier Parish Community College. He has been at Northwest LTC for a little over a year and at BPCC for two months.

Prior to becoming Interim Director at Northwest LTC, Rick was the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Student Success at SOWELA Technical Community College in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He has 20+ years of progressively responsible and varied higher education experience in Belize, Texas, and Louisiana.

Rick has a proven record of success as a dynamic, visionary, servant leader committed to expanding access, promoting student success, utilizing data-informed decision making, promoting partnerships, and building a collaborative, cooperative, team-centered environment.

“BPCC is market responsive like no other college in the state of Louisiana. BPCC is customer focused like no other college in our state. I love that about BPCC,” Bateman said. “We are ready for students when they cross the threshold and we’re going to embrace them and help them get where they need to go.”

Rick holds a Ph.D. in Community College Leadership from The University of Texas at Austin. He also has a Master’s Degree in Religious Education from Loyola University New Orleans and a Bachelor’s Degree in History from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Rick is passionate about the open door mission of the two-year college and believes that the community college is an essential tool of a healthy democracy and a vibrant economy. His leadership style is driven by core values that include courtesy, integrity, perseverance, respect, trust, and personal growth.

“What BPCC needs right now is someone that is innovative and results oriented. I think the experience I have, educational and professional, make me an ideal candidate for the next chancellor of BPCC because I am action oriented, customer oriented and solutions oriented,” Bateman said. “I lead with a sense of urgency because I know what it’s like to be that student who is about to walk onto a college campus and need services.”

Bateman said the important thing to remember is staying market focused and customer centered.

“The vision we have for BPCC is to be a world class institution. We already have a national reputation and BPCC Open Campus has taken our name around the world,” he said. “The next step is identifying ways that will continue that growth and improve on it.”

When asked why he chose BPCC, Bateman said he feels like he is the candidate best fit for the job.

“I believe that God wants us to take our greatest talents and apply them where we find the greatest need. That has driven a lot of the decisions I’ve made as a professional. I was invited to provide interim leadership at BPCC, but I didn’t think this is where God would lead me. I’ve realized that there is a contribution for me to make here. There are things that I can do to help BPCC get to the next level and I do believe that I am the best fit. You won’t find anyone that will love BPCC like I love BPCC. You certainly won’t find anyone that will work as hard as I will for this college and community.”

Dr. Larissa Littleton-Steib



Dr. Larissa Littleton-Steib currently serves as the Vice Chancellor for Workforce Development and Technical Education at Delgado Community College. She is a native of Jefferson Parish and has over 20 years of experience in education.

Larissa began her career as a Special Education Teacher in the Jefferson Parish Public School System. Previously, Littleton-Steib worked in New Orleans Public Schools as the Executive Director for External Grants. During her career at Delgado, she has held various positions such as, Executive Dean of West Bank Campus and Dean of the Technical Division, Executive Assistant to the Chancellor and Equal Access Equal Opportunity Officer, Executive Director of Community and Economic Development and instructor and job developer.

Littleton-Steib said she has held BPCC in high regard for a long time and is honored to be a finalist for the chancellor’s position.

“Jim Henderson has some really big shoes to fill,” she said. “This community and staff has brought this college where dreams never thought it would do. It has surpassed expectations on many levels in spite of budget cuts, limited resources and staff. This institution can succeed and will succeed.”

Littleton-Steib has an extensive background in program development, grant writing and workforce development and training. She chaired the Delgado Community College Strategic Planning Committee which developed the college’s five year strategic plan.

Littleton-Steib said BPCC needs a chancellor that is visible on campus and in the community, someone who is accountable and someone who is willing to make a stand for the college.

“Relationships take time. They don’t happen overnight. BPCC already has a strong foundation,” she said. “I’m sure a plan has been written for Bossier Parish Community College as to how its goals will be reached and obtained. What you need now is someone to put those steps into action, holding an individual accountable for those actions and finding the resources needed to achieve those goals.”

Littleton-Steib holds bachelors and master’s degrees from Xavier University of New Orleans and a doctorate in Urban Higher Education from Jackson State University in Mississippi.

Her vision and plan for BPCC was not stated in the forum. Instead,  Littleton-Steib believes that the next chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College should come in and listen to the students, faculty and staff on campus first.

“I’m not coming into BPCC with a high level view of what I think should happen next,” she explained. “I’m coming in with a plan to work with a team and we are going to develop the next step for Bossier Parish Community College. We are going to do it together. There are things you do really well and things that fall short. We also have to listen to our business partners and design programs that meet the need of the community and industry partners.”

When asked why she chose BPCC, Littleton-Steib said she likes the direction the college is moving.

“I’ve been watching you for a while and I like what you’re doing here,” she said. “I want to be part of this team that’s doing exceptional things for the region, state and country.”

Dr. Kimberly Russell



Dr. Kimberly A. Russell is Vice President for Advancement and External affairs at Tyler Junior College and also serves as Executive Director of the Tyler Junior College Foundation, the largest two-year college foundation in Texas. She has worked for TJC since 1999 after a five-year tenure as Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations at LeTourneau University.

Russell has over 20 years of experience in higher education including advancement, alumni affairs, enrollment management, marketing, web development, government relations and public information. She said BPCC’s work with workforce education is the thing that makes it appealing and what drove her across the state line into Louisiana to apply for the job.

“You speak with what seems to be a unified voice. Your system of community and technical colleges speak with one voice and I think that is different from Texas. You are allowing your community partners to help guide your programs and I think that is very appealing. You are offering degrees and certifications that the business and industry needs. That’s huge.”

Russell earned her BA in English at the University of Texas at Tyler and her MA in English and EDD in Higher Education Administration with a minor in Economics from the University of North Texas. She served as an adjunct instructor in the English department at Kilgore College while completing graduate work at the University of North Texas.

Russell said there are many untapped markets that BPCC could utilize.

“I see a lot of potential here,” she explained. “From what I’ve gathered and researched about this institution, you do have strong partnerships, but I think you can do more. You can position yourselves by using a marketing campaign to not portray this as a grade 13-14 school, but as an economic engine for this community, region and state. It’s a matter of developing relationships, which takes time and trust.”

If chosen as the next chancellor, Russell said her plan for the first six months is to begin building relationships with the students, faculty, community and business partners.

When asked why she chose BPCC, Russell said its because the college has a handle on its mission.

“You know what you’re doing and you know where you’re going,” she said. “In Texas, we don’t have that same kind of focus. I think that takes away from the core of who we are. I think you have a wonderful group of people here. I’m excited about the community here. I’m excited about the larger market here in Shreveport-Bossier. I’m excited about the facilities this college has. I would welcome the opportunity to work and live here.”

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Bossier City – Are you ready to rock?

The 7th Annual Rock & Worship Roadshow is headed to the CenturyLink Center Sunday, March 29, and will feature a diverse group of Christian music artists, all with a mission to share the gospel through voice and lyrics. Show time is 6 p.m.

Headlining the Roadshow are tour founders MERCYME. They will be joined by Crowder, Matt Maher, Jamie Grace, Tedashi and Group 1 Crew. It will also introduce tour newcomer artists I Am They and Jon Guerra. Shaun Groves will be the guest speaker.

Barry Graul of MercyMe said they wanted the show to be family-friendly and fairly diverse in the show’s lineup so everyone could come and enjoy at least one (if not all) of the acts.

“For us, it’s like traveling with family,” Graul said. “We all get together for one purpose and it’s pretty awesome.”

Since their debut in 2001, MercyMe has sold over seven million units in CD and DVD sales, garnered 26 No. 1 multi-format Christian radio singles. The Dove Award-winning, Grammy-nominated group is known for such hits as “I Can Only Imagine,” “Homesick,” “So Long Self” and “Word of God Speak.” In 2009, Billboard named MercyMe’s “Word Of God Speak” the No. 1 Song of The Decade and the group the No. 1 Christian Songs Artist of the Decade, with an additional No. 1 as the Christian AC Song Artist of The Decade.

MercyMe made history when “I Can Only Imagine” surpassed one million digital downloads, making it the first song in Christian music to go platinum in the digital domain. The song has now surpassed two million downloads.

As an experienced artist, Graul said they often like listening to the up and coming generation of musicians. One of those being Jamie Grace.

“She’s very exciting to watch and very captivating. You can tell she really loves what she does,” he said.

Singer-songwriter Jamie Grace, 22, made her debut into the industry with the help of multiple GRAMMY® winner TobyMac. Her debut single “Hold Me (feat. tobyMac)” was a No. 1 radio single and has been certified Gold by the RIAA.

Hailing from outside of Atlanta, she was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at age 11 and has since traveled the country sharing her story and faith through music and speaking. Jamie Grace has since graduated from Point University with a degree in children’s ministry. Her sophomore album Ready To Fly is available now and features the No. 1 hit singles “Beautiful Day” and “Do Life Big”.

Her inspiration comes from life, fans she meet and listening to good music from all genres.

“I just love talking about Jesus and encouraging others and making others smile,” she said.

Grace said standing backstage and seeing the crowd worship is something incredible to witness.

“You’ve got young people, old people, white people, black people, hispanic people all together under one roof,” she said. “Years ago we couldn’t worship together, but now we’re coming together for one reason. It’s a huge blessing.”

Both musicians encouraged concert attendees to bring a friend or family member and share the experience together.

“If you love the Lord, there will definitely be an incredible evening for us to worship together,” Grace said. “If there’s someone who is not a Christian or doesn’t know Jesus, bring them. This is a night for Christians to be encouraged.”

Graul, agreed, adding that attendees should come expecting to worship with artists who are sharing what’s on their hearts in an exciting, untraditional venue.

“A church environment, to a non-believer, is a little intimidating. This [arena] is a neutral ground and they probably feel more comfortable,” Graul explained. “The first thing I’ve noticed about the roadshow is that people will stand on their feet the entire night. That’s amazing to me. It’s exciting from the very beginning to see people worshiping in the crowd, knowing that someone may be hearing the gospel for the first time.”

Since The Rock & Worship Roadshow first kicked off in 2009, the tour has performed more than 150 shows to an audience of 1.2 million people.

“The success of The Rock & Worship Roadshow over the last six years has been incredible,” shares Brian Seay, executive producer of the tour. “The quality and variety of the artists in our 2015 lineup ensures that we will continue to provide the entire family – parents and kids alike – with an unforgettable evening of ministry and music presented by Compassion International.”

General admission is $10 per person at the door. VIP tickets are also be available for $50 per person and will include a Q&A with select artists, early entrance for premium seating, an exclusive tour t-shirt, a VIP laminate and more.

Compassion International, the world’s largest Christian child development organization serving more than 1.4 million children, will again be the presenting sponsor of the tour.

For more information or tickets, call (800) 965.9324, visit itickets.com or www.theroadshowtour.com.

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Community comes together through United Way of NWLA event

Giving today for a better tomorrow — that’s the message volunteer teams spread throughout the community last week during United Way of Northwest Louisiana’s Day of Caring.

The one-day, community-wide volunteer event is an opportunity for United Way donors and companies to see their contributions at work.

More than 200 volunteers from 24 businesses and organizations participated in the event, which is the most visible United Way project of the year. 

“It is truly amazing to see so many individuals who are willing to help their neighbor, roll up their sleeves, lend a hand, and do the things that are necessary to make sure this area and the people who call it home are safe and strong,” said Bruce Willson, President and CEO of United Way of Northwest Louisiana.

Teams gathered at Margaritaville Resort and Casino before venturing out into the community to complete projects, ranging from landscaping and clerical work to painting giving life to things once used. The volunteer team from AEP SWEPCO spent the day at “the Nest,” the warehouse for Renesting Project, Inc. in Bossier City.

Renesting Project, Inc., a 501c3 organization, provides gently used furniture and household items to clients of registered social service agencies as they transition from homelessness to hopefulness. Noel Haacker, founder and executive director of Renesting Project, Inc., couldn’t be more excited to have a team of volunteers from AEP SWEPCO at their warehouse. They utilized the extra hands to work on a special project for their summer fundraiser, Nest Fest.

“This is an amazing gift for us,” Haacker said. “If we had used our regular volunteers, we would have missed serving four families. We are so grateful to have them help us.”

Nest Fest is an annual fundraiser for Renesting Project, Inc. Volunteers from SWEPCO put their skills to work by sanding and painting chairs that will be used as centerpieces and auctioned at the event, scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Bossier Civic Center. The theme this year is “Chair-ished Beginnings.”

Naketa Sterling, a volunteer with AEP SWEPCO, said she likes giving back in any way possible.

“Knowing that you can help someone just makes you feel better,” Sterling said. “You never know who might be in need and programs like this really help the community.”

Renesting Project, Inc. was just one of 24 nonprofit agencies benefiting from the extra hands and help.

Willson added, “Not only are the companies and volunteers providing a much needed service today for community programs, but they will be impacted by the people they meet, the faces they see, and those they work alongside. It’s not about the program, or the nonprofit; it is about the people.”

United Way of Northwest Louisiana has improved the lives of individuals for the past 94 years by creating opportunities for a better life. Today, the organization is reaching beyond the historical role of passing through fundraising dollars and focusing efforts on specific goals in Education, Income and Health, while continuing to provide a safety net to ensure that the basic needs of individuals in crisis are still met.

Anyone interested in becoming involved, making a donation, or volunteering time is encouraged to contact United Way at 677-2504 or visit www.unitedwaynwla.org.

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Every so often someone will tell me how much they enjoy reading, but rarely have time for it.   Others say they get through a couple pages and then fall asleep.  Sound familiar?  If that describes your experience with reading you might want to try something new like joining a book club.  Bossier Parish libraries have several active book clubs. 

The newest club is at the Haughton Library.  In fact it does not have a name.  If you would like to become a charter member of that group and help select the name their first meeting will be Thursday, April 16th at 9:30a.m. at 116 West McKinley Avenue.  The book discussion will be on “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom.  Branch Manager Audra Bartholomew is very excited to have a book club at the Haughton branch.  Call ahead at 949-0196 to register. 

The Aulds Library Book Club in south Bossier meet at 11a.m. on the third Tuesday each month.  On May 19th the group will discuss “The Whole Golden World” by Kristina Riggle.  Call 742-2337 to learn more. 

At Bossier Central on April 16th from 6—7p.m. “The History of Love” by Nicole Krauss will be the topic of discussion.  Contact Anne or Diane at 746-1693 for more information. 

I am sorry to say the East 80 Library Book Club is no longer meeting.  That happens occasionally, but if you are interested in establishing another club at this branch contact Beverly at 949-2665. 

You might be thinking that a book club is not for you because it takes too much time out of your schedule or the book selections will not interest you.  All I can say is don’t knock it until you try it. 

Our Library!  Gateway to the Past, Bridge to the Future.    

Make a note for March:

  • If you like to cook you may be interested to know several new cookbooks have been added to the collection.

Benton 965-2751

  • Saturday, the 28th at 11a.m. join in the Easter Eggstravaganza for ages 0–12.  Space is limited, please preregister.

Bossier Central 746-1693

  • March Madness Tournament, Young Adult Fiction vs Adult Fiction.  Pick up a voting ballot at the Front Desk. 
  • April 1st and 2nd, Storytime and Read Alouds have been cancelled at Bossier Central.

Haughton 949-0196

  • Monday, the 30th from 3—4p.m. children 12 and under and their parents are invited to Family Story Time. 

New Books


“Her: A Novel” by Harriett Lane

“A Touch of Stardust” by Kate Alcott

“As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust” by Alan Bradley

“The Marauders: A Novel” by Tom Cooper

“Lost & Found” by Brook Davis

“White Plague” by James Abel

“After Birth” by Elisa Albert

“First Frost” by Sarah Addison Allen

“The Edge of Dreams” by Rhys Bowen

“Old Fashioned” by Rene Gutteridge


“The Woman Code” by Sophia Nelson

“Overcoming Fear” by Creflo dollar

“The Imperfect Marriage” by Darryl and Tracy Strawberry

“Off the Sidelines” by Kristen Gillibrand

“The Accidental Admiral” by Adm. James Stavridis

“Getting Life” by Michael Morton

“Semisweet” by John A. O’Brien

“Excellent Sheep” by William Deresiewicz

“Let the Tornado Come: A Memoir” by Rita Zoey Chin

Vickie Hardin is Associate Director of Public Relations for Bossier Parish Library. She can be reached at vhardin@bossierlibrary.org

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The February 13, 1931 issue of The Bossier Banner carried the following story about how a Haughton man tried to protects his chickens from a cunning thief.

The editor’s note provided the setting for the story: “The following story, concerning the activities of chicken thieves in the Haughton community, was sent to the Banner by the paper’s very good friend, Mr. E. E. Walker.  The Banner is always glad to receive such interesting contributions from its readers and friends:”

“The fact that chicken thieves are active of late in the Haughton community can be seen in the particular incident related below.  There is a certain man in this community who has been bothered by these marauders for some three or four years.  The final act in this prolonged drama was enacted only a few days ago.”

“The certain man we speak of lost almost all of his chickens, all except a few hens and a rooster, about four years ago.  He was, at that time, keeping his fowls in an ordinary chicken house.  After the first offense committed by the robbers, he built a sturdy wire fence around the house and wired the chicken house as well.”

“The thieves, however, proved as enterprising as he.  They, or he, if it happened to be a lone thief, cut a pathway through the wire fence from the rear of the house, and cut the wire from the house as well, taking the fowls off for the second year.”

“The next year our enterprising citizen and chicken raiser hit upon another plan.  He crossed his

lumber and used big nails, figuring that by cleating up the house he would prevent the theft of his fowls.  He purchased a good lock and locked the house.  But lo, the thief was equal to the occasion.  He worked the lock and escaped with the chickens for the third year.”

“Again the owner of the ill-fated chicken house hit upon a scheme.  This time he crossed the timbers all over the house, even closing up the door.  He left only a very small place for the chickens to gain entrance into the house, since he had removed the nests to another location.  The robber rose to the heights of his professional cunning this time, though, and for the fourth time carried off the chickens.  He simply jacked up the hen house and thereby gained his unlawful entrance.  To add insult to injury, he left behind some old and decrepit roosters, six or seven of them, presumably some he had collected here, there and yon in his night raids on chicken houses of well-meaning citizens.”

“This surely goes to show that the thieves are not only active in this section, but enterprising, as well.  It certainly indicates that people will have to exercise due diligence in keeping the raiders from taking away their property, if they are to retain that which is theirs.”

The Bossier Parish Library Historical Center can help you locate many interesting stories related to Bossier Parish, so pay us a visit.


Ann Middleton is Director of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. She can be reached at (318) 746-7717 or by e-mail at amiddlet@state.lib.la.us

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March is a month when many gardeners begin to plant their spring vegetables. Raised beds can be the solution to a number of challenges when it comes to home vegetable gardens.

Raised beds drain faster during periods of heavy rain. Overall, raised beds are easier to maintain than traditional in-ground beds. And with careful management, they can be even more productive than typical garden beds.

As a result, the use of raised beds is becoming increasingly popular in home vegetable gardening. It’s also a great way to garden with kids.

Raised beds are generally about 8 to 12 inches high but may be higher. Raised beds built up high enough so you can sit on the edge while you garden are particularly easy on the back. They can allow gardeners with physical limitations or those that can no longer bend over easily to continue gardening.

The width of a raised bed should generally be no wider than you can comfortably reach into the middle when standing just outside the bed or sitting on the edge. For most adults, a bed 3 to 4 feet wide is best. The length of the bed is up to you.

You should be able to plant, weed and harvest while staying outside the bed and reaching in. This allows you to avoid walking in the bed once it is planted. Walking in the bed after planting reduces the planting area and compacts the soil.

You may construct the sides of the raised bed with a variety of materials, such as landscape timbers, bricks, cinder blocks, plastic lumber, rot-resistant wood like cedar and redwood or pressure-treated lumber (2-by-12-inch boards work well).

In our climate, rot and termites are real concerns. Even rot-resistant wood can succumb to these problems. Using materials such as pressure-treated wood, plastic lumber and cinder blocks will create a more permanent raised bed. The bottom of the raised bed is left open – the sides simply sit on the existing the ground. This ensures good drainage.

For construction tips, you can find much information on the Internet. Building small beds is something a person with average skills should be able to do. Building larger or taller beds needs more careful planning, so you may want to hire a carpenter.

Once constructed, raised beds will need to be filled with soil. Before adding the new soil, kill or remove any unwanted grass or weeds present in the bottom. The herbicide glyphosate – the active ingredient in Killzall, Eraser, Roundup and other brands – may be used to do this.

Till the soil in the bottom of the raised bed, add a few inches of organic matter and work that in before filling the bed with soil. The roots of the vegetables may grow down into the existing soil at the bottom of the bed, particularly if the raised bed is less than 12 inches deep. This creates a transition that helps the roots grow deeper. If tilling is impractical, you can simply put the soil mix in over the existing soil after the weeds are dead.

If sandy soils are available, such as creek sand or river sand, you may use those to fill the raised beds. Add about 7 inches of sandy soil to the raised bed. Next, sprinkle a general-purpose or organic fertilizer over the bed following label directions. Then, spread about 3 inches of organic matter, such as compost, rotted leaves or aged manure. Finally, thoroughly incorporate the organic matter and fertilizer into the soil, and you are ready to plant.

The soil level should be a couple of inches below the edge of the sides. This facilitates watering. And remember, you need space for the mulch you will use to cover the soil.

Instead of blending your own soil mix – sandy soil plus organic matter – you might choose to purchase a blended soil mix often called topsoil or garden soil from a local company or nursery. The soil company or nursery can help you decide how much soil you need based on the dimensions of the raised beds. Make sure the organic matter in the mix, such as ground pine bark, has been well composted. If it’s not, you may need to add a nitrogen-containing fertilizer occasionally while the organic matter breaks down.

For small-scale gardens, it’s often easiest to purchase bagged soil mix from a local nursery. For larger jobs, some nurseries and soil companies sell blended soil mixes by the cubic yard and deliver it if your order is large enough. You can often get it yourself if you have a pickup truck.

It’s a good idea to incorporate a general-purpose commercial fertilizer or organic fertilizer to the soil mix before planting. This will ensure sufficient nitrogen in the soil for the plants. It also will help compensate for any nitrogen that may be tied up if the organic matter if the mix is still decomposing, which is less of a problem if the organic matter was well composted.

New soils often get better with age, and gardeners will talk about purchased soil mixes “mellowing” over the first six to eight months after they are put in place.

If you have been thinking of starting a vegetable garden but were put off by the hard work of bed preparation, building raised beds is an option. A fair amount of work is involved in putting them in place to begin with, but there tends to be less labor over time. This is an advantage for both older gardeners and young children who would find the physical demands of preparing in-ground beds challenging.

Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter. He can be reached at DGill@agcenter.lsu.edu

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Recently, lots of attention has been focussed upon the impending state budget cuts that are sure to take center stage in the upcoming Louisiana Legislative session which begins at noon on Monday, April 13 and runs up until 6 pm on Thursday June 11. Projected budget shortfalls of $1.1 to $1.6 billion appear to be on the horizon for Louisiana. Once again, the cuts loom over our state’s higher education system.

RandyAs I mentioned in this column on February 18, the higher education cuts are projected be around $420 million. I also mentioned that in reality, if these budget cuts hold true, every institution of higher education within our state will experience drastic cuts in state funding. As such, this will drastically effect Northwest Louisiana as locally, Louisiana Tech, Northwestern State, Grambling, Louisiana Monroe, LSU Health Sciences Center, LSU Shreveport, BPCC, Southern University Shreveport and Northwest Louisiana Technical College will all be effected.

To further repeat what I stated in this column on February 18, we can’t keep gutting higher education or we will definitely pay the price in terms of the industry we attract to our state and the resulting drain on our business climate. Reducing state spending on higher education severely limits the options of our best and brightest. And, once these young people leave our state to pursue other options, the chances of their returning to our state are very low. No doubt, something has to be done.

According to our current state constitution, the areas where sweeping budget cuts can be made are very limited. Actually, health and hospitals (which have already been privatized and are completely out of the state budget at this point) and higher education are the two main areas that are not restricted and these areas are cut each time there is a budget shortfall.

Specht Newspapers President David Specht advocates for a state constitutional convention in his column for BIZ Magazine’s March 2015 edition (P.13). I whole heartedly agree! As David says in his column, “this will free up the budgetary process and streamline things.” David further mentions that the state of Louisiana is currently operating under a 1974 constitution that has been amended hundreds, maybe even thousands of times. He further notes hearing/being told that a constitutional convention may not be feasible in the current political climate within our state and that any outcome from a modern day constitutional convention may likely be much worse than what we currently have now.

Well, as I said above, something has to be done! We can’t keep doing what we are doing now and gutting higher education every time there is a budget shortfall. Our state and our legislators, have to both plan and think in the long run in regard to higher education and not just pay major attention to higher education when budget shortfalls occur. This makes me ask (and many other people that I know are asking too): does our state still want to be in the higher education business or are we headed for an end to publicly funded institutions of higher learning (colleges and universities) just like has happened with our hospital system?

There is no doubt that changes have to be made, even if we stick with our current constitution and changes are made through amendments (a very long and sometimes unproductive process). However, I think that it is time to make big changes in our state constitution and the only way this can be accomplished is to hold a constitutional convention. The sooner the better in my opinion, I think we have reached the point to where we no longer have a choice and the future of our state heavily depends upon the outcome. Our current state constitution was ratified in 1974 as a result of the 1973 state constitutional convention. Thus, in my opinion, operating under a 41 year old heavily amended state constitution is no longer feasible for our future well being.

Randy Brown is Publisher of the Bossier Press-Tribune. He can be reached at rbrown@bossierpress.com

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With 2015 being a high-profile election year in the great State of Louisiana, with the governor’s race at the top of the heap, it is not surprising, therefore, that polls are on a roll to detect the views of the state’s voters.

Here is a look at the MarblePort’s results from a survey of 1,071 likely voters on March 17:

Governor’s Race

lou BurnettU.S. Sen. David Vitter (R) – 33.5%.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D) – 31.3%.

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R) – 14%.

Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R) – 7.2%.

The governor’s race is shaping up to be a runoff between a Republican and Democrat at this point in time.  It is still early in the race and it is not known who else may enter the race.

Governor Bobby Jindal

The MarblePort poll, like the Triumph Campaigns poll, is not good news for Gov. Bobby Jindal.

MarblePort finds that only 28% approve of the job he is doing as governor, while 63% disapprove.

Trust in the Legislature

MarblePort found that only six points separate Republicans from Democrats as far as who is most trusted in the state Legislature.  Of respondents, 46% said Republicans; 40% Democrats.  Nine percent said neither and 5% were undecided.

No Party/Other Party voters think Democrats are more trustworthy by a 37-31% margin.  Saying neither were 23% and 9% were undecided.

Political Environment

According to the MarblePort poll, Democrats are benefiting from a much improved political environment when compared to the 2014 U.S. Senate election.  In close races, this should help Democrat candidates up and down the ballot, the poll concludes.

The mood of voters is not good for incumbents.  An overwhelmingly large majority of voters believe the state is off on the wrong track.  Only 30% said the state is on the right track, while 70% said it’s on the wrong track.

Voter dissatisfaction is across the board.  The poll concludes that considering Republicans are in control of all statewide offices and the state Legislature, this could provide an opportunity for Democrats to make gains.

Angelle Internal Poll

Jeremy Alford at LaPolitics.com revealed an internal poll that was conducted by McLaughlin and Associates for gubernatorial candidate Scott Angelle

The results were Vitter 32.9%, Edwards 16.9%, Dardenne 10.7%, Angelle 7.4% and Undecided 31.4%.

But the poll showed Vitter with 15% of the black vote, which he will have a difficult time capturing in the October election, given the state’s past voting patterns.

Giving Edwards a large portion of those black voters – if he is the only viable Democrat on the ballot – would likely give him a big bump in his percentage of the vote, according to Alford’s report. At the same time, it would bring down Vitter’s percentage of the vote.

The March 28 election

There are two important tax propositions on the ballot on March 28 in Bossier City.  They are:

*Renewal of an 8.45-mill property tax for a period of 10 years for the purpose of operating and maintaining the Fire and Police Departments.  It is estimated to bring in nearly $5 million a year.

*Renewal of a 2.75-mill property tax for a period of 10 years for the purpose of operating and maintaining the Fire and Police Departments.  It is estimated to bring in $1.6 million a year.

Lou Gehrig Burnett is a seasoned veteran of politics. He publishes Fax-Net Update, a weekly political newsletter.

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A visit with District 3 Bossier Parish Police Juror Wanda Bennett, Jury Administrator Bill Altimus and Engineers Butch Ford and Bruce Easterly to discuss parish transportation projects was an opportunity to review the Jury’s long-term planning to improve and expand the parish’s roadways and bridges.

It’s a two-part exercise, however.  Planning involves an extensive project list and sources of funding to pay for specific projects.

So before the project list, here’s a review of the Police Jury’s transportation-related revenues.  Bossier Parish collects a 1.5 percent sales tax dedicated to the highway department, which generates an average $7 million per year. The sales tax is collected outside of parish municipalities.  The Parish also collects a 2.01 mill property tax that generates about $1.8 million per year.  Other funds include roughly $825,000 a year from the Louisiana fuel tax, and severances taxes collected by the Parish.

The Parish’s highway department operating, equipment, and asphalt budgets currently run about $7.3 million annually. 

Clearly, that doesn’t leave much for projects like the Swan Lake Road extension, projected to cost roughly $23-27 million.

But as evidenced by the recent Kingston Road widening project, the Jury looks for other funding sources.  Ford explained that costs were shared by the Bossier Parish School Board, the Kingston Crossing Apartments developer, the Jury and Bossier City – for the near $2 million project.  Last year the Jury completed improvements to Wimple Road from Airline Drive to Cross Creek, a $1.1 million project, and has scheduled the next step of the project for this year – to Lakewood Subdivision – a $1.8 million project.

“We try to tap into every source that’s available to help,” Ford said.

Altimus provided another example of tapping other sources, using the Swan Lake Road Extension as an example.  Altimus said that the Parish had received roughly $7 million from the federal government, which paid for all the environmental work on this project and the Winfield and Wafer Road projects, but federal funding has generally dried up.  The Parish set aside funds for what would have been the 20 percent match along with a state capital outlay allocation of $600,000.  Another funding source is likely the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments (NLCOG), which receives state and federal funds for local projects. 

The Swan Lake Road extension project will become a reality, as will the Parish’s other planned transportation improvements – but Altimus cautions that those major projects will take the Jury’s continued diligence in seeking out additional funding.

It’s a similar situation for financing bridge maintenance and replacements. 

Ford explained that the Parish participates in the Off System Bridge Program – in which a mix of federal and state funding assists parishes to replace or repair parish bridges.  Participation requires meeting certain criteria and operates on a two-year cycle.  Although Bossier Parish didn’t receive funds in the current cycle, previous awards have contributed to the replacement and repairs to such as Parks Road Bridge, Dogwood Trail, and Caplis-Sligo Bridge.

That funding is also providing $1.2 million for replacement of the Koran-Doyline Bridge.  But Ford has a list of bridges that need major repair or replacement, including the Linton-Black Bayou Bridge and Sligo-Foxskin Bridge, to name only a few.

Ford said that the Police Jury cannot rely on the Off System Bridge Program to meet all the Parish’s funding needs in this area – and the Jury will need to have a program of its own.

This informative visit made clear a couple of notable points.  First, the Bossier Parish Police Jury is committed to planning and projects that will both encourage and accommodate the parish’s consistent growth.  With that growth, there’s the expectation that a moderate increase in revenue to the parish will occur.  At the same time, however, costs of transportation projects will increase.

So, if Bossier Parish residents are interested in seeing consistent transportation improvements, the future calls for a continuing discussion with the Bossier Parish Police Jury to determine and support sources to fund those desired improvements.

Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She may be reached at martycarlson1218@gmail.com

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Submitted by Sonja Bailes, Public Relations Liaison for Bossier Schools

Even before Princeton head custodian Johnny “J.R.” Ruffin’s name could be announced during an assembly as the latest winner of Bossier Schools’ Gold Star employee award, the students began to excitedly point at him and yell his name.

You see, everyone at Princeton Elementary loves “Mr. J.R.” and for so many reasons. He has been at the school for 14 years and is as much a part of it as the bricks and mortar that hold the building together. But it is not his years there that have endeared him to the faculty, staff and student body. It is the love he shows to each of them.

GoldStarRuffin“Man, they got me good!” Ruffin exclaimed after receiving the award. “I kind of got teary eyed.” He then added, “I love all those kids. That’s what I love. And the teachers are the bomb.”

Teacher Haley Mitchell nominated Ruffin for the Gold Star award, writing “He is always putting others first! This morning I came in to a warm, cozy classroom. He had gone to all the classrooms and turned the heat up for us. He fixes anything we ask for, most of the time before we even realize something is broken. I am so thankful to have him as our head custodian.”

Assistant Principal Andrea Spinney also nominated Ruffin, saying he is much more than a head custodian.

“He loves our campus, faculty and students. We have a very large campus with a lot of outside work; he is always meticulous about our school’s presentation, offering suggestions on how to improve it. He checks on our students and makes sure they are following the Princeton expectations, and he is always passing out our Princeton “BUCS” to the students.”

Spinney went on to explain how Mr. J.R. takes the time to get to know each student and follows up with certain ones to make sure they have what is needed to be successful in the classroom.

“During summer remediation, he can be found on the sidewalks cheering the students on as they enter to retake the LEAP. He lives near our campus and is ALWAYS willing to come let a teacher in, check on the school’s safety or anything else that is needed.”

Principal Nancy Devers echoed that sentiment.

“He’s always doing the extra things we need, even on his off time,” Devers said. She added, ”The main thing I appreciate is his positive attitude. He’s always cordial, agreeable and always willing to help not just me, but everybody.”

The camaraderie Ruffin has with everyone, parents included, is also unparalleled. The die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan laughed as he told of all the Saints paraphernalia they try to give him during football season.

“They’re always trying to convert me!” he laughed. “Shame on them. It ain’t gonna work.”

Now, he has his own star to match the Cowboy star he wears on his cap.