A Covington woman has sued the St. Tammany Parish School Board, saying it failed to provide French immersion classes after she met all necessary requirements for the school system to begin the program.
Anne Ogden is the petitioner in the suit individually and on behalf of her 4-year-old daughter. It was filed by attorney Charles Branton in 22nd Judicial District Court on March 22 and assigned to Judge Ray Childress.
The suit says Ogden gathered the signatures of parents of 36 rising kindergarten students and 27 rising first-grade students, all of whom were interested in having a French immersion program started in the St. Tammany school system. She presented all of the signatures to the School Board at its Feb. 8 meeting.
The suit also says Ogden met all other obligations required by state law to have the School Board start the program, which also included providing assurance of funding and availability of French teachers for the program.
Ogden’s suit says she presented all that and more at the board's Feb. 8 meeting, including a letter from the Louisiana Department of Education stating that funding was in place and a letter from the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana that indicated instructors were available.
The Immersion School Choice Law was passed by the Legislature in 2014 to facilitate expansion of foreign language immersion programs statewide.
But instead of having the school system take the lead on starting the classes, the suit contends, Ogden was saddled with having to distribute a waiver form to the parents that Branton said was “intimidating” and a “roadblock” to getting immersion programming in place.
Branton said the goal still is to have the French immersion program available to local kindergartners and first-graders in the 2018-19 school year.
Meredith Mendez, a spokesperson for the St. Tammany school system, said she couldn’t comment on the pending litigation.
In an earlier interview, Regina Sanford, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said there is a shortage of foreign language teachers in the system and an influx into parish schools of about 1,000 Spanish-speaking students also had to be considered when contemplating additional foreign language programs.
Meeting set on U.S. 11 projects
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, along with the Federal Highway Administration, is proposing to replace the existing bridge crossing the Norfolk Southern railroad and widen U.S. 11 from two lanes to four lanes from Lafayette Street north to Interstate 12.
A public meeting on the project will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. April 10 at Slidell Junior High, 333 Pennsylvania Ave.
Informational handouts, maps and graphic displays will be available. A looping presentation will be shown, describing the project, the preferred alternative and impacts from the project that include wetlands, acquisition of right of way and relocation assistance.
Representatives from the state DOTD, the Highway Administration and the consultant team will be present to receive comments and discuss issues.
Detailed information about the project is available in the Environmental Assessment. Copies are available for public review at the following locations: St. Tammany Parish Library, Slidell Branch, 555 Robert Blvd.; and Regional Planning Commission, 10 Veterans Blvd., New Orleans. The assesment can be reviewed and/or purchased at the state DOTD District 62 Office, 685 N. Morrison Blvd., in Hammond.
Local parks, recreation official lauded
The Louisiana Recreation and Park Association honored St. Tammany Parish Recreation District No. 1 board chairman Nixon Adams at its recent annual convention.
Adams has been on the recreation district board of commissioners for 32 years and has served as chairman for the last 18. A leader in the district since its inception, Adams has helped oversee the Recreation District No. 1/Pelican Park’s growth from its 1990 opening (with a budget of $128,000) to its current status as an industry leader with a budget of $4.3 million.
The complex has won national acclaim for its leadership, as well as amenities which include 33 athletic fields, two multi-court gyms, two dog parks, a skate park and the 46,000-square-foot Castine Center.
St. Tammany Parish Recreation District No. 14 also was honored at the convention and received an Organization Citation Award for videos that were created to educate the community on the Coquille Sports Complex and planned improvements to the facility approved by voters in November.
Pearson sponsors public/private water legislation
State Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, is asking Louisiana's fishers and others who enjoy the state's natural resources to show support for his House Bill 391, which will protect public access to waterways.
Under current state law, property owners whose land fronts waterways may lay claim to portions of the water, extending the property line into waters that have widened due to erosion.
"That's fine," Pearson said, "but some landowners — particularly large and out-of-state corporations — are taking advantage of this ownership to restrict access to fishers, and for no good reason. The result is lost access for sportsmen and women, lost revenue for local marinas and other business that support recreational or competitive fishing and a reduction in water-based tourism. HB391 will ensure access without infringing on property owners' rights."
HB391 has been assigned to the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure. Pearson is encouraging those who use the state waterways for recreational or competitive fishing to contact their legislators in support of the bill.
Local road work
There will be a road closure on La. 25 at mile 1.9 north of the St. Tammany Parish line through 7 a.m. on April 7 while crews remove and replace drainage structures across the highway, weather permitting.
Also, there will be intermittent lane and shoulder closures on Interstate 10 east and westbound over the Twin Spans (mileposts 255.1 to 260.5) continuing through April 13.
Slidell Carnival krewes holding food drive
Several Slidell Carnival krewes will hold a food drive to benefit Community Christian Concern on Saturday, April 7.
The drive will be from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Clearview Glass, 180 Gause Blvd., in Slidell. There will be a drive-through on site where motorists drop off canned goods and nonperishables.
Members of the krewes of Perseus, Titans, Dionysus, Selene and Poseidon are organizing the drive for the group, which assisted more than 5,100 people and distributed more than 450,000 pounds of food in the Slidell community in 2017. Krewe members will be grilling, and people making donations that day can enjoy the cook-out as well.
Early voting dates set
Early voting for the April 28 general election will be April 14-21 from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily (except on April 15, when polls will be closed.)
Early voting will take place at 601 Jefferson Ave., in Covington and at 520 Old Spanish Trail, in Slidell.
There will be no early voting at St. Tammany Parish Government Headquarters on Koop Drive near Mandeville.
Identification is required to vote. For more information, call (985) 809-5500 or (985) 646-4125.