Test scores, festival headlined good news

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2005

Before we take on the tasks of the coming week, let’s take time to look at the good news that made headlines last week:

Based on state test scores, McLaurin Elementary, Morgantown Elementary and Natchez High School all moved from level 2 schools to level 3 schools &045; in other words, from low performers to schools rated successful.

Administrators and teachers said such changes as spending more &uot;time on task&uot; in the classroom, teaching students on grade level, restructuring the school day, teacher workshops and focusing more on reading,

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At McLaurin, for instance, very student scoring below the score target works in the school reading lab. The Boys & Girls Club provides extra help.

Last year’s scores are evaluated to show where each individual student needs help.

This is good news for all of Natchez, because not only are the students and schools doing better, but better-performing schools help attract industry.

The Art and Soul festival in downtown Natchez attracted not only 45 booths and numerous food vendors, but visitors from throughout the region who were there to listen to some good music, view some of the region’s finest art and perhaps even buy a piece or two.

Events like these help keep Natchez and its downtown vital, bring visitors and their dollars in and just give everyone a break when they need it &045; just after Hurricane Katrina took its toll on Mississippi and Louisiana.

Take some time out again this week to enjoy the onset of fall.

And here’s hoping this week, like last week, is full of good news.

Having married someone from Natchez and making much of his living painting multicolored scenes from Natchez life, David Lambert already doesn’t need much of an excuse to make the drive from his Jackson home.??But he had even more of an impetus to do so when friend Edward Killelea told him of the art festival the Natchez Downtown Development Association was planning for this year.

&uot;He mentioned it six months ago, and I thought it was a great idea,&uot; Lambert said. &uot;Natchez is a great walking town, so it’s a great place for a festival like this.&uot;??Lambert was referring to the Art and Soul Festival, which wrapped up its two-day run – and its first year – on Saturday with art booths, food, music and fun.

In all, the festival had 45 booths with paintings, pottery and other arts and crafts for sale and display along Main and adjacent streets. There were face painting, hands-on art opportunities and more to entertain children. It also had at least four food vendors and eight bands, the latter of which sent blues music wafting through the streets of downtown as Lambert manned his booth Saturday afternoon.??&uot;We did great this year,&uot; said NDDA Executive Director Tammi Mullins, adding that the association hopes to make the festival an annual event.

Don Wurst of Natchez, whose wife Ingrid was displaying her sculptures in colored concrete, said the festival was successful in more ways than one.??&uot;It’s been light traffic – but it’s heavy on buyers, ? which is good for us,&uot; Wurst said as he helped Ingrid arrange their wares.??The event attracted artists locally and from throughout the region and also attracted visitors from any place within driving distance, including Brennan and Victoria Zerangue of Baton Rouge. They were there with their son Niklaus, 3.??&uot;We were visiting Natchez and saw this was going on, and we decided to take a look,&uot; Zerangue said. And they said they liked what they saw.??For his part, Lambert said something such as Art and Soul &uot;brings a good spirit&uot; to downtown – and hopes it will continue.??&uot;This first year is something to build upon,&uot; he said.

It only took four tanks of gas and 22 hours to get here, but for Glen Cook and John Bracero &045; and the many citizens of Peekskill, N.Y. who helped them &045; it was worth it.??The two men brought a truck full of supplies, including water, food, clothing and personal items, from New York to Concordia Parish in the first of many planned trips to areas affected by hurricanes.

&uot;We’re coordinating with local churches to deliver this stuff and get it out to people who need it,&uot; Cook said.??The group and members of Union Baptist Church, including pastor Carl Smith, will hand out supplies to evacuees at the church at 9:30 a.m. today. Union Baptist is located south of Vidalia on Louisiana 131 near Louisiana 15.

The shipment was put together by people from the Peekskill community, Cook said.??&uot;There area lot of people interested in sending items down,&uot; Cook said. &uot;Some people are worried about giving to the Salvation Army or the Red Cross because they can’t see where it’s going. We’re documenting this so we can show them where it’s going.&uot;

For local church officials, the supplies are a blessing, allowing them to help local evacuees.??&uot;It’s a blessing that they came down all the way from New York,&uot; Union Baptist Church Deacon Donnell Cupit said.??Bracero’s daughter is married to a soldier stationed in Louisiana, so he’s hoping to see her while on the trip down here, he said.