Community volunteers sit with Superintendent of Schools Webster – Minden Press-Herald

On Tuesday August 23, 2022, delegates and concerned citizens from the burgeoning community volunteer group known as Our Minden (#ourminden) sat down to discuss the events of the previous Friday at Minden Secondary School. The frantic emptying of the WW Williams Stadium during the Minden-Benton Scrimmage match made many in attendance realize that our community needed help. No one was harmed or hurt that night, but many wondered how this situation could happen back home. In the days that followed, parents and community leaders sprang into action and a grassroots effort emerged to provide potential solutions and ideas to help our schools and community.

The answer is refreshing. It’s easy in troubling times to point fingers and find a scapegoat to blame. However, this movement of parents and concerned members of the community did not seek blame. We have a community issue that has reluctantly seeped into our children’s schools. It has been a burden that our teachers and school administrators have had to carry for too long.

Minden High School currently has just under 800 students. The overwhelming majority of these students have hopes and dreams and are leveraging their high school experience to move into the next phase of their adult life. These students will become our next generation of fellow citizens, employees, entrepreneurs and civic leaders, and they will be great. However, Superintendent Rowland informed the gathering of concerned citizens that disruptive and disrespectful behavior in our classrooms by a small handful will not be tolerated.

The first step from the volunteers involved was to provide a list of potential immediate actions that could be taken to create a safer experience during football matches. Additionally, the group came up with ideas for providing volunteer support at events and even in the hallways of Minden High.

As community members and parents pondered potential solutions, our weary but unwavering administration and faculty shared their own ideas and strategies. In a series of meetings on Monday, school administrators, led by Superintendent Rowland, introduced the following immediate changes for school sporting events:

  • Metal detectors will be used by law enforcement at the gates for all home games in Webster Parish.
  • Each school in the parish will monitor its unique list of students NOT permitted to participate in events due to specific violations of school rules.
  • Law enforcement will be dispersed in the crowd at school events.
  • All bags brought to a school event by anyone must be clear and transparent.
  • At Minden High School, Ash Street will be closed during home games and monitored by law enforcement.

These changes will be visible across the parish starting this Thursday, August 25 at Minden High School’s Meet the Tide, then again on Friday, August 26 at the Pineland Jamboree hosted by Lakeside High School in Sibley. On behalf of all the voices concerned, we thank our school management for the rapid implementation of these actions.

Additional discussion also took place on longer term solutions. A major concern of teachers and parents is the presence of criminal activity infiltrating the hallways and classrooms of our schools. Over the past year and a half, the school system, in response to COVID-19 pandemic protocols, has developed and implemented effective alternative means of educating children. This allows violent or recidivist students to access an educational pathway that keeps them isolated and separate from the general school population.

Finally, the volunteer group discussed the possibility of parents and community volunteers assisting with hallway and event monitoring, particularly at Minden High School. Superintendent Rowland offered some advice and thoughts, and the volunteer group will organize an effort to make this happen. In short, the school system encourages the participation of parents and citizens. Student safety is of paramount importance, so any voluntary efforts within school walls will need to be controlled and coordinated.

What can you do to get involved in the conversation?

1. Join the “Our Minden” group on Facebook. www.facebook.com/groups/ourminden. This group serves as a base to share ideas and rally the community to make the changes we want to see. Also, support our students by ordering a new t-shirt: https://parishdesignco.com/products/ourminden-preorder.

2. Share the stories and articles promoting the solutions. As a community, we must not ignore problems, but we must conquer negativity and darkness with light and truth. Let’s share the good.

3. Commit to prayer. Pray with your church, Sunday school class, Bible study group, family, and friends. Several citizens hold prayer marches around the school property daily and weekly, and a pre-game prayer rally on Ash Street is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. before the home opener at MHS on September 9.

4. Get involved in the community. Attend events. Show up at city council meetings and school board meetings. Talk to your elected officials. Take an interest in how our community functions for better and for worse. You will discover ways to make a difference.

5. Support our community as a whole. Negativity is an easy way to get involved to make a difference. Pointing fingers and blaming others provides no value and gives individuals an excuse to shirk their own responsibility.

It’s our community. We are Minden. It’s #ourmind.

Jeff Rhodes, Community volunteer and parent

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