Now that we’ve said farewell to 2015, parish officials are already working toward accomplishing goals for 2016.

The Bossier Press-Tribune has reached out to the local mayors, parish administrator, and school officials for their thoughts on where they see Bossier headed over the course of the next 12 months. Their responses will be printed in a three part series.

Bossier Schools had many successes in 2015.

“We snipped the ribbon on two new schools; Kingston Elementary and Bossier Parish School for Technology and Innovative Learning opened their doors to hundreds of students. They are the first schools to be built as part of the district’s 10-year construction program,” Sonja Bailes, public relations liaison for Bossier Schools, said.

“Speaking of expanding, additional School Resource Officers were placed in elementary schools to better ensure the safety of our students and employees. Bossier Schools took the lead to step up efforts in the coordinated enrollment of early childhood education with local day cares and Head Start programs. And in collaboration with Step Forward, literacy volunteers have helped elementary children achieve significant progress in their reading skills.

“At the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year, Bossier Schools was named the recipient of a $1 million Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) grant to further enhance and address the social and emotional well-being of military-connected students and their peers at Airline, Kerr Elementary, Parkway and Stockwell Place Elementary.

“In addition, Parkway was on the receiving end of $100,000, thanks to the school’s first place finish in State Farm’s “Celebrate My Drive” program, which emphasizes teen driver safety. And thanks to the Biedenharn Foundation’s investment in our school system, 14 Bossier Parish educators were awarded $30,000 in classroom grants. Earlier in the year, another $15,000 was bestowed on teachers by the Optimist Club of Bossier.

“In keeping with our belief “It is good to be blessed, but better to be a blessing,” students and staff wholeheartedly embraced the district’s community service initiative “Helping Hearts: The Power of We.” In 2014-15, Bossier Schools paid it forward by giving more than $114,000 to charitable organizations and people in need, donating thousands of pounds of food, toys, shoes, toiletries and supplies and spending countless hours serving others. Bossier Schools was also named the top parish in the state by the American Heart Association for the dollars raised to help fight heart disease.

“Those efforts continue in 2015-16 as schools have hosted fundraisers for the Joe Delaney Memorial Park in Haughton, the Northwest Louisiana War Veterans Home, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and many others. We put our hands to work, too, as seen in October when Bossier Schools held its first Day of Service in conjunction with the  United Way of Northwest Louisiana. More than 300 students, employees and parents fanned out across the parish to volunteer at 15 project sites.

“Then, December 12, the district issued a friendly Red Kettle Challenge to Caddo Schools to ring the bell for The Salvation Army. That one-day effort resulted in more than $8,670 collected to help our neighbors in need.

“Academic successes are many as well. Before adjourning for the holidays, the Louisiana Department of Education released its 2014-15 school report cards. Bossier Schools was named among the top 15 districts across the state. Two schools also received the distinction as Top Gains Schools, four schools moved up a letter grade, 12 others showed improvement and 19 maintained their letter grade from the previous year. The district also sustained its ‘B’ letter grade and ranked as the 14th top-performing school system in the state.

Looking ahead in 2016, Bailes said the new year comes with more exciting developments.

“Construction will continue as Bossier Schools addresses its continued growth; a record-breaking 22,222 students this year. Work will be completed on the first of two three-story classroom wings at Airline High School as well as the new three-story Haughton Middle School, with an estimated completion of late 2016 or early 2017.

“We anticipate breaking ground on a new Benton Middle School, with renovations to follow of the existing Benton Middle/Benton High Schools to accommodate the exponential growth being seen in that part of the parish. Plans also call for the addition of a new classroom wing at Haughton High Schools. And enhanced programming opportunities are being explored at Bossier Parish School for Technology and Innovative Learning to include the possibility of summer courses.

“Amid the sounds and sights of nail guns and cranes putting steel beams in place, the real work will be happening in classrooms, where the state’s most highly effective educators will be preparing our young people for the exciting career and educational pursuits that await them following their K-12 experience.

“In the meantime, Bossier Schools will not rest on its laurels. As the district continually seeks to improve its school and district performance scores, we pledge to offer each child every available opportunity to tap into their personal potential.

“Of course we would be remiss if we did not thank the citizens of Bossier Parish for the support shown in making our school system an enviable one. We look forward to a great 2016 and celebrating many good things to come.”

Bossier Parish Community College is making a difference in the educational and economic prospects of citizens and they’ve set their sights on being exactly what this region and the state needs from them. Chancellor Dr. Rick Bateman said BPCC is “laser-focused on the bold vision set out in the two-year college system’s public agenda—Our Louisiana 2020: Building the Workforce of Tomorrow.”

“When achieved, the goals of Our Louisiana 2020 will double the number of students served, the number of graduates and their annual earnings, and the assets in our foundation. We will also quadruple the number of students transferring to four-year universities and the number of business partnerships we maintain. We have made significant progress toward these goals in 2015 and have strategies in place that will ensure 2016 is another year in which we close in on the targets set for 2020.

“The last twelve months have been extraordinarily successful for BPCC. We were again recognized for enrollment growth that is among the fastest in the nation and we graduated the largest class in our 48-year history. We have signed a record number of articulation agreements with our university partners and built numerous structured pathways to four-year degrees in the process. In 2015, BPCC was recognized as a Great College to Work For by the Chronicle of Higher Education, a Military-Friendly College for the fourth consecutive year, and a finalist for the Bellwether Award which is known as the Heisman for community colleges. Seizing our fiscal destiny, we competed successfully for local, state, and federal grants totaling more than $10 million. And as the year ends, $12 million in new construction is getting underway on a new parking lot and a new building to house our Science, Nursing, and Allied Health programs.

“Our students, faculty, and staff have made 2015 a year to remember. Our programs continue to earn high marks and commendations from accreditors. The Nursing program at BPCC is the newest RN program in Louisiana but was recognized as the best in the State and tops in the south. At the time of this writing, BPCC is home to the nation’s top junior varsity debater, the third best debating team in America, and a women’s basketball program that is knocking on the door of a national ranking in just its third year. Our theater arts program has advanced to a regional competition and our cheerleading squad to nationals. And we are entering the home stretch of a historic, trend-setting capital campaign that will set the standard for the way in which a community college is embraced and supported by those she serves.”

So what can Northwest Louisiana expect of BPCC in 2016?

Bateman said the answer is this – “More of the same commitment to innovation that drives us toward our vision to become the premier community college in the country. Not because it is nice to be recognized… but because our students deserve nothing less than world class learning experiences and the opportunity to live the American dream. We are so privileged to do this work.”