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    Ponchatoula Student Outreach celebrates second year

    The City of Ponchatoula again participated in the national “Lights On Afterschool” event with its “Family & Friends Night” at the Ponchatoula Community Center for a time of celebrating the growth and positive results of its own after-school program.
    Called “Ponchatoula Student Outreach,” the program’s motto is “From Afterschool to Bright Futures” and according to reports on improvement in behavior and grades, the future is looking much brighter for some who have needed that extra encouraging nudge.
    It was more like Thanksgiving with all the appreciation expressed by each speaker from the microphone as well as family members around the tables.
    Program Director May Stilley and Mayor Bob Zabbia kicked off the evening with warm welcomes and thanks to students, parents, and guardians, City Council members, principals, teachers, volunteers and sponsors who have been generous in time and means to help the City make it all possible. School board members Mike Whitlow and Rose Dominguez were in attendance and acknowledged.
    Stilley also paid special tribute to the school bus drivers who do not charge extra to bring the students from their respective schools to the Community Center for their classes and to Transportation Coordinator, Tessa Hills. At one table, Key Club members from Ponchatoula High School were recognized for their volunteering to help give one-on-one help.
    After a meal, guest speaker Superintendent of Tangipahoa Parish School System, Melissa Stilley, continued in the same positive manner, offering her gratitude for the way the people of Ponchatoula have responded in so many ways to the student outreach. She said, “This is evidence of what partnership is all about,” adding her wish for every community to have an after-school program.
    Starting the program in time for the 2017 school year required a lot of preparatory work by Human Resources Director, Lisa Jones, and May Stilley, aiding Mayor Zabbia in realizing a dream come true and supported by him and the City Council.
    This school year, first and second grades were added bringing the total enrollment to 50 students and it is stressed this is not a babysitting program. Classroom teachers recommend the students that would profit most from the extra help. Ponchatoula Student Outreach teachers are available to meet with parents and guardians when picking up their children after classes.
    Staff for 2018-19 are 1st and 2nd grades: Daphne Griffin and Charlotte Gordon; 3rd and 4th: Kimberly James and Elisha Perry; and 7th and 8th: Windy Haist and Jennifer Daigle.
    Classroom assistants are Shirley Creel, Cathy Colkmire, Annette Tullier, Leigh Burnthorne, Jenea Magee, and Kacey Martin.
    The advisory board is comprised of members from each school participating. They are Amber Gardner, Tucker Elementary; Tamaria Whittington, D.C. Reeves; Rosalyn Heider and Melissa Ryan, Martha Vinyard; Mary Beth Crovetto, Ponchatoula Junior High; and Shelly Ernst and Danette Ragusa, St. Joseph School.
    The program uses community resources for youth to see and connect with positive role models.
    For those interested in being a sponsor, mentor or volunteer to invest in the long-term future success of the students and the community as a result, call her at 985-401-2210.

    By Kathryn J. Martin

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    Seeking information on Alvin Ray Washington

    The Drum seeks information on former Hammond City Councilman Alvin Ray Washington. If any relatives, friends, or constituents have newspaper clippings, documents, letters, or pictures involving or including Washington, please share them with The Drum. These documents will not leave your home. Call Eddie Ponds at (225)927-3717 or email to news (at) thedrumnewspaper (dot) info.

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    Embattled School Board Member Mike Whitlow will not seek a second term

    Mike Whitlow came under fire a few months ago from the Tangipahoa Black community after he posted a story on his Facebook page that included a screen shot of a hangman’s noose.

    Whitlow posted this on Facebook,”It has been a pleasure serving the citizens of District F on the Tangipahoa Parish School Board. I want thank my constituents for the confidence placed in me to help improve our school system to ensure our children’s future. I will serve out my current term which ends on Dec. 31 of this year and will not seek reelection on Nov. 6. My plan is to fully retire to spend more quality time with my wife, family and friends.”

    Fellow School Board Member Tom Tolar posted,”I want to thank Mike Whitlow for his service on the Tangipahoa Parish School Board. He has endured more than his share of hatred, but he has never stopped working to improve our schools..This is a hard job, and it takes a toll on you. As the only board member north of Amite, I feel the pressure to advocate for our local schools. I will continue to fight with all my might to represent our local schools and I look forward to seeing what is in store for us under our new superintendents leadership. We work for you!!”

    School Board Vice-President Sandra Simmons posted, “It is sad to see you leave but l understand you wanting to spend more time with your loved ones. You have served faithfully, wisely and sincerely.”

    The election for all 9 school board members is set for November 6. Candidates will qualify in a few weeks on July 18-20.

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    Robinson speaks against Kolwe, number of failing schools

    HAMMOND–Tangipahoa Parish School Board member Betty Robinson is highly critical of the superintendent of Tangipahoa Parish Schools Mark Kolwe and she questions the number of failing schools.
    “I have three failing schools in my district,” Robinson said. “Hammond Junior High, Woodland Park, and Westside Elementary, all these school having failing grades. It not the educational system; it is the Superintendent Mark Kolwe is to blame. He is not an educator.”
    Robinson said, “Another problem we have in the school system is that our children are being taught by uncertified teachers.”
    “Everytime a failing school gets a principal who turns around a school, the superintendent will transfer that principal. (For example) Terran Perry was turning around Hammond Junior High, a failing school,” she said.
    “The tax payers can change the school system, and remove the superintendent by attending school board meeting in record numbers and challenge how their tax dollars are spent,” she said.
    According to Robinson, the school board has hired a public relations firm to produce information about a proposed tax that will appear on the November ballot.
    “I cannot support a tax. I don’t trust them with the money, and the community doesn’t trust the system. If the tax passes, the majority of the money will go to Ponchatoula High,” she said. “We must vote against the tax.”
    Robinson said her trouble with the school board started on November 3, 2015, when she was sworn in. “I did not received new members’ orientation until 2016–14 months later,” she said.
    In a letter to The Drum, Robinson wrote:

    Dear Editor:
    The recent report ranking our city as being among the worst cities to raise a child hit hard. The reason is that this is a direct reflection of our educational system. Citizens need board members to be open and honest with them about the state of education.
    Likewise, board members need a superintendent who is courageous enough to be honest and open about these matters with us. We cannot go on pretending like everything is great when national reports state otherwise as this makes us appear uncivilized. I understand politics, but the well being of children and families is far too important to play politics. We simply cannot afford to do so. Doing so has caused the outcome seen nationally.
    Our parish it’s cities and towns are a jewel. However, a better job must be done with our schools.
    The superintendent of over a decade owes local mayors, business leaders, civic leaders and especially families answers as to why our system is in this current condition. And please, do not continue to place blame on money.
    People are tired of this excuse and have stated that they will invest when they can trust that their dollars will be effectively spent on improving educational outcomes for all children. Would you believe that one of the highest ranking school districts in our country actually spends less than we do per pupil? Go figure.
    It is about effectively prioritizing and managing what you have, and our data points out that prioritizing funds starting with what is in the very best interests of children has definitely not been an area of strength for our system’s leadership.
    An entire decade has passed, and this is the outcome. We must do better in assisting our parish’s cities and towns by doing our part in securing leadership that we know can improve system wide academic outcomes so that we all can reap the benefits of having a district filled with high ranking schools.
    Betty C. Robinson
    School Board Member
    Tangipahoa Parish District G

    By Eddie Ponds
    The Drum Founding Publisher

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    Historians celebrate, share Buffalo Soldiers’ Louisiana legacy

    Donning original Buffalo Soldiers uniforms, Ponchatoula historians Melvin McElwee and Bobby Marten took to the stage of Zion Outreach Center to tell eager listeners of the role Louisiana slaves and freed Blacks played in  the Civil War.

    They spoke to a large number of students on June 19.

    “I’m going to introduce you to another perspective of history, it very important to know where we came from. History is sometime positive and sometime negative,” McElwee said. “Louisiana has a rich history. We are talking about the Buffalo Soldiers.”

    McElwee, who is president of the Louisiana Native Guard Association, said, “The 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry was formed in New Orleans in the Greenville subsection of New Orleans where Audubon Park and Audubon Gulf Course is located today. The men of the Louisiana Native Guards came from New Orleans. Most free men of mixed race bloodline.

    On July 28, 1866, there was massacre in New Orleans at Mechanic Hall on Canal Street as a retaliation against the Civil War and against rights for Blacks.

    The Louisiana Native Guard was used to restore order and later used by the military to expand the Western Front. This laid the foundation for the birth of the Buffalo Soldiers.

    He said when the white officers left New Orleans, the Native Guard was left behind under the command of Maj. Gen. Benjamin Franklin Butler. Butler burned New Orleans and marched toward a little important railroad town of Ponchatoula.

    The Union forces captured and burned Ponchatoula in March 1863 and the soldiers marched toward Camp Moore in Tangipahoa.

    Trooper McElwee answered more questions:

    Is the Louisiana Native Guard the same as the Buffalo Soldiers?

    Civil War veterans were among the first enlisted soldiers to be a part of the organization of the 9th (Horse) Cavalry Unit founded in Greenville, LA (At Audubon Parks golf course).

    How did they get the names LNG and BS?

    Louisiana Governor Thomas D. Moore, in which Camp Moore is named after in Tangipahoa, LA, issued a resolution to organize an African American unit during the Civil War.  The resolution was named “Defenders of the Native Land.” After the Civil War, the 9th (Horse) Cavalry along with 10th (Horse) cavalry were used by the Federal government to occupy lands in the west.  The Cheyenne Indians observed the Negro soldier’s coarse hair, calm demeanor, and agile fighting abilities and stated that they resembled the buffalo’s mane and protection instincts, thus naming the Negro Soldier, :Buffalo Soldier.”

    In Louisiana were more escaped slaves Buffalo Soldiers or free Blacks?

    The Civil War fighting efforts were comprised of both slaves and free Blacks.  The statistics of composition is unknown to me. Refer to The Louisiana Native Guards written by James G. Hollandsworth Jr., produced by Louisiana State University Press.

    Since the soldiers were allies of the Union, did this mean victory in burning Ponchatoula?

    It aided in the continuation of efforts to bring civil rights to white women, and the Negro race.  Victory has never been reached.  Racism still continues this day.

    Did Louisiana soldiers go on to enlist in the United States Colored Troops?

    The United States Colored Troops was the name given to the United States new effort to grow the number of colored units.  It was comprised of former slaves, and free people of color.

    Is the 9th and 10th Horse Calvary a division of the Louisiana Native Guard, the Union, or the Buffalo Soldiers?

    The Louisiana Native Guard is one of, if not the first, Negro unit of soldiers organized during the Civil War.  It was in existence before the 54th Massachusetts regiment.  General Benjamin Butler, a lawyer from Massachusetts, was responsible for waging arguments that aided the Union in enlisting slaves into the Union’s war effort. The Buffalo Soldiers were remnants of the Civil War effort, and beneficiaries of the newly formed United States.

    How was the chapter formed? 

    Trooper McElwee, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant, is also a member of the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association.  As president he is leading the Louisiana Native Guard Association’s request to become an official chapter of the 9th & 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association.  The Louisiana Native Guard Association came into existence as non-profit in the State of Louisiana on July 22, 2016. The 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association has at least 41 active chapters across the United States.

    Does the chapter focus on the 9th and 10th Troop only?

    No.  The Louisiana Native Guard Association focuses on all elements of its role that aided in the development of the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association. Each chapter compiles historical education for its particular area.

    Why is this group—and the history of the soldiers– valuable to our community a century later?

    The study of American History aids in understanding the relationships of the present day. Understanding is the principal thing.  With understanding comes tolerance for coexistence.

    How can the history and legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers be continued from a military standpoint?

    It has and will continue.  It is the United States Military that has lead the way in creating understanding. The mission has always b­een to create an understanding for coexistence.

    ONLINE:dccbuffalosoldiers.wix.com/9th-10th-bs

    By Eddie Ponds
    The Drum Founding Publisher

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    COMMUNITY EVENT: Ponchatoula Samaritans to meet May 11

    Ready to aid community leaders, the Ponchatoula Samaritans have scheduled a May 11 meeting at the St. Joseph Ministries. The public is invited.

    Spearheaded by Nancy Bourgeois, the group helps churches, organizations, city and parish government, and interested residents stay informed about what is being done in the Ponchatoula area to meet the everyday needs of its citizens, especially in times of disaster.

    Organizers said this effort prevents duplication of services, and the information gleaned is shared among the groups, further aiding in the process of lending a hand-up to those in need.

    St. Joseph Ministries is located on the corner of West Pine and North Eighth. The lunch meetings are usually potluck. RSVP to Bourgeois at 985-507-1797.

    Submitted News by Kathryn J. Martin

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