Louisiana Senator Ryan Gatti (R-Bossier City) held a town hall Monday morning at the Bossier Parish School for Technology and Innovative Learning to tout the parish’s “hidden jewel.”
“How awesome it is that Bossier parish can have this school that is top notch? And it’s a hidden jewel, which it shouldn’t be,” said Sen. Gatti.
The lawmaker said he wanted to hold an update on the bills he proposed during this year’s Legislative session in order to get attention for a worthwhile institution.
“So many things have happened since I was sworn in on Jan. 11. I get invited to all these places and some are magic and some are tragic,” Sen Gatti said. “I came here for a (Bossier Chamber of Commerce) education seminar and it blew my mind.”
The school, which has everything from culinary arts to welding to television production and graphic design, came as a surprise to Gatti who passed it daily.
“I’m building a house down the road and travel Swan Lake Road about 20 times a day. I knew it was a beautiful building but when I walked through here…I could tell this was something special.”
BPSTIL Principal Jayda Spillers said she a passion for the school because she was one of the kids who hated going to school and wanted to go to work instead.
“I never want our kids here to feel that. We want them to be here and want them to learn so they can go be productive citizens, and we want them to stay and work here,” said Spillers.
She told the attendees she wants to get rid of the word “vo-tech,” saying it’s about getting students college and career ready.
“Vo-tech is 30 years ago. This is a technical high school,” she said. “Things are more automated, students have to be able to think and work through problems to solve problems. And that’s what we’re going to teach them.”
She noted that students will be using a welding machine, but they also have to learn how to use the computer program that goes along with it because “they have to be able to do all of it.”
She also said BPSTIL is putting priority on teaching soft skills to go along with the technical ones.
“Employers and the business community comes to me and said ‘It’s not those technical skills we’re having a problem with. It’s those soft skills. They don’t know to come to work on time. They don’t know how to get along with other people, they get mad and walk off the job,” said Spillers. “We discipline them like if they were on the job.”
Most of the students are dually enrolled to gain not only high school credit but college credit from the Northwest Louisiana Technical College or Bossier Parish Community College. They also offer internships to offer further on the job training.
It all goes towards helping build up a workforce that stays in Bossier.
“I have such a heart and belief in (this school),” said Spillers. “And one thing I hope you feel (when you visit the school) is we’re a family.”