Archive for January, 2011

Henderson Wrongful Death Trial Underway

01/31/2011

While we were at the Ouachita Parish Court House this morning, we sat in for a few minutes on the William Henderson wrongful death lawsuit trial that began today in Judge Scott Leehy’s Fourth Judicial District (Morehouse, Ouachita parishes) Court.

Among those seen in court were former City of Monroe Chief of Police Ron Schleuter and KTVE-TV10’s Daisy O’Donnell.

See the Monroe Free Press for background.

Henderson murder trial Monday

It’s being kept hush, hush but the infamous murder of William Henderson by the members of the Monroe Police Department is heading for trial Monday in Fourth District.

Henderson, who was mentally ill, was killed in 2004 by Monroe police officers who fired 29 times at Henderson who was only armed with a pocket knife; 17 of the shots struck Henderson and 12 went into the home of a nearby family.

Several lawsuits have been filed against the Monroe Police Department for what has been called its “murder” of William Henderson. The city has quietly settled one of the lawsuits from a woman whose home was bombarded with bullets during the shooting.

However, two wrongful death suits were filed against the city by Henderson’s former wife on behalf of his minor children and the adult children filed their own suit.

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Higher Ed Roundup – 1/31/11

01/31/2011

Gov. Bobby Jindal proposes tuition hikes, campus flexibility for state colleges

Bobby Jindal outlines higher education agenda with tuition increases part of proposals

Jindal tells college boards he wants to abolish them

Jindal releases higher ed plan

Governor Jindal Unveils Higher Education Reform Proposals

Jindal proposes even bolder, needed college reforms

Jindal to push tuition increases at colleges

Kincade Wants Onyemechara Trials Separated

01/31/2011

The attorney for former City of Monroe Director of Revenue and Taxation Patrick Onyemechara (Ohn-ya-men-CHAIR-ra) wants separate trials for each of the 31 charges filed against him. Defense attorney Charles Kincaid said he wanted to sever the trials because of the potential for “confusion of evidence.”

At a hearing this morning in Judge Wilson Rambo’s Fourth Judicial District (Morehouse, Ouachita parishes) Court, the judge ruled that the attorneys should present authority for their motions within ten days and then argue their motions at a 9:00 AM February 24 hearing.

Trial is presently scheduled for March 21, 2011.

Today’s hearing was to address issues in a 11/9/2010 motion to continue filed by Kincade.

Another issue from the November motion was that a “bill of particulars” had not been provided by the prosecution.

In a response filed on 1/24/2011 by 4th JD Assistant District Attorney Neal Johnson, the state argued that the information requested by Kincade is not required by the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 484 – Bill of particulars.

See here earlier reporting on the Onyemechara case.

Onyemechara Trial Delayed Four Months

Monroe Tax Collector Trial in Two Weeks

Lincoln Parish School Board Tuesday

01/31/2011

The Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) will meet in regular session at the central office on Tuesday, February 1, 6:00 PM.

Here is the agenda.

The executive committee of the board will meet at 5:30 PM to discuss superintendent Danny Bell’s Contract.

Reports

Several reports are scheduled.

Yearly audit: Margie Williamson of Allen, Green & Williamson, LLP.

Redistricting: Andy Shealy

New Tech @ Ruston (NT@R): Mike Milstead and Catherine Letendre

Financial Reports: George Murphy

Financially noteworthy is this memo which tells the board that a previously budgeted $1.3 million from the federal education jobs fund won’t be awarded. Combined with previously planned spending on the Ruston High School (RHS) field house, Choudrant Elementary cafeteria and a shortfall at the beginning of the current fiscal year, the total shortfall for the current year is now set at a minus $4.4 million.

The personnel committee will hear the monthly report from Mary Null. See here the personnel changes for the month.

Under unfinished business, committee assignments for the upcoming year will be noted.

Smurfit/Rock Tenn Update – 1/31/11

01/31/2011

Creditors do well in Smurfit-Stone buyout

In the long run, it looks like everything worked out for the creditors of Smurfit-Stone Container Corp.

Last week, Norcross, Ga.-based RockTenn announced a $3.5 billion agreement to buy Smurfit-Stone to create one of the largest paperboard packaging companies in North America. RockTenn will be paying Smurfit-Stone shareholders a combination of cash and stock valued at $35 per Smurfit-Stone share.

Nearly all of Smurfit-Stone’s shareholders were unsecured creditors after the Chicago-based company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June. The company’s reorganization plan called for about 96 percent of its stock to be issued to those creditors. The plan said that the stock would be worth about 71 percent of the unsecured creditors’ claims against the company.

Smurfit-Stone’s stock was valued at $24 a share when trading began in the new stock seven months ago. But if those creditors held on to their shares, the $35 offer from RockTenn would basically make up the difference and make their claims whole.

Of course, Smurfit-Stone’s pre-bankruptcy shareholders still lag behind. The reorganization plan gave only 2.25 percent of the new post-bankruptcy stock to its old shareholders.

The real beneficiary of the merger may be Smurfit-Stone’s employees, which include about 850 people at several facilities in Jacksonville and Fernandina Beach.

Deutsche Bank analyst Mark Wilde said in a research report that the acquisition by RockTenn “does place a stumbling industry giant in the hands of a well-regarded management team.”

“RockTenn has emerged as among the sector’s best managed players, both financially and operationally,” he said.

Apparently, Smurfit-Stone has been looking for a buyout since it emerged from bankruptcy, according to Wilde’s report.

“We believe that Smurfit-Stone has been ‘well-shopped’ over the last several months and see little likelihood of another bid,” he said.

Letter Grades for Schools Generates Discussion

01/31/2011

At the January 4 meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB), Superintendent Danny Bell reported on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (BESE) plan to assign letter grades to schools.

See here the BESE press release on the plan.

BESE Sets Standards for Schools to Earn Letter Grades

Under the new system, a top-performing school with an SPS of 120 or above will earn an “A.” Schools that have an SPS below 65 will receive an “F.”

The score for earning a “D” will be adjusted upward in 2011-2012, when the minimum standard for the Academically Unacceptable label is raised to a 75.0.

Schools that meet their growth target will earn a plus (+) sign after their letter grade. However if a school declines from one year to the next, the letter grade will be followed by a minus (-) sign.

The letter grades will replace the state’s current “star” rating system and will go into effect this school year, which means schools will receive their first letter grades in October 2011, when School Performance Scores are released.

See here the enabling legislation, Act 718.

The report generated quite a bit of discussion at the LPSB meeting.

“Rather than a star rating system, it’s going to letter grades. Well, people are going to connect with what is an A, B, C,” said Bell.

Asked by board member Eddie Jones (district 2) what could be done, Bell said he would be adding support to the schools that were in the most need. Bell said that the leadership in the individual schools would have to analyze the data and see where the deficiencies are and act accordingly.

Director of Instruction and Personnel Mary Null noted that students in every grade are being “bench-marked” and then analyzed quarterly to see if progress is being made.

Joe Mitchum (district 6) asked, “How do you think parents are going to perceive these grades? The majority of our (Lincoln parish) schools may be in the “C” range – what are their (the parents) options?”

Bell said there will likely be a lot of “C” schools in the beginning, but that the letter grades will provide goals to work toward and the district would just have to do what it takes to make progress.

Likely these type discussions are taking place in school boards all over the state. See here a news story in The (Baton Rouge) Advocate on the subject.

Rigor wins out in bid to grade public schools

The issue focused on how tough the state would be in its first bid to grade about 1,300 public schools.

It is sure to trigger comments, especially when the first round of “D’s” and “F’s” come out in the fall.

A change that went through the Legislature almost unnoticed might prove to be the biggest public school law of 2010.

Higher Ed Roundup – 1/30/11

01/30/2011

Jardon: Change the education system to improve it

Our Views: SUNO played for politics

Tech, GSU facing potential program cuts

Governor to go over syllabus for universities

Editorial: Address how best to gauge La. colleges’ effectiveness

Commentary: U.S. universities unprepared for the 21st century

University retirement contributions falling

Smurfit/RockTenn Update – 1/29/11

01/29/2011

Lynchburg paper mill won’t be affected by merger, RockTenn VP says

LYNCHBURG, VA – The merger of two packaging manufacturers likely will not impact a paperboard mill in Lynchburg, RockTenn Vice President and Treasurer John Stakel said this week.

RockTenn has agreed to buy Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., the companies announced. As a combined company, the two would be worth $9 billion and would be the second largest producer of containerboard in North America, according to a news release.

Stakel said he sees no impact for the RockTenn mill on Concord Turnpike in Lynchburg because it operates in an unrelated business line.

The Lynchburg mill makes specialty paperboard liner for drywall, while Smurfit Stone makes corrugated cardboard boxes for consumer product packaging, he said.

Higher Ed Roundup – 1/29/11

01/29/2011

Your Mail: Low grad rate too expensive

UNO-SUNO merger study to cost state up to $99,000

Regents to host meeting on UNO-SUNO merger study

Ruston/LA Tech Water – Where are the Feds?

01/28/2011

According to yesterday’s The Tech Talk, three of twenty-five water samples from the City of Ruston’s water supply did not meet LA Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) standards.

Water problem reveals communication issues between city, campus

After possible water contamination, students were left un-notified due to miscommunication within the university.

The City of Ruston was advised Dec. 15, 2010, by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals that three of the 25 required monthly water samples sent to the state laboratory had too much coliform bacteria.

The city sent out 10,346 letters of notifications to residents as well as to the university, according to Troy Whitman, water utilities operations manager for the City of Ruston.

There was also a public notice in the Ruston Daily Leader, but due to miscommunication, students were not notified.

“Even if the water came back clear, I would have liked to know there was a possibility,” said Reed Womack, a senior biology major. “They should have sent the students notifications as a precaution.”

Tech has been on the city’s water supply since the fall 2009, and before that, Tech supplied its own water to the campus.

Earlier this week, Louisiana Land and Water’s (LWC) president Jeff Pruett was convicted of operating water and sewer systems not up to standards.

How come Pruett gets dragged into court and prosecuted, but government operated systems only get a letter put in their file?