Siebert, Rayne FFA recognized

CROWLEY - The Acadia Parish School Board has policies to adopt each month.

Monday, however, the board had the privilege of recognizing a nationally recognized FFA club and a principal’s brave actions.

The evening began with Rayne High’s FFA club being recognized for it’s numerous accomplishments, including a national award.

Dr. Doug Chance, supervisor for secondary education with the APSB, introduced the club and later presented them certificates commemorating all of their hard work over the past year. Chance, along with the club’s sponsors and the school’s principal, spoke highly of how the club and its members have performed over the past few years.

“We are delighted to pause for a moment and honor Rayne High school and its staff and students,” said Chance. “To put this in perspective, the state of Texas, as you all know, is a big state. They had 39 students in the category that we are going to talk about. Louisiana had 37, Arkansas had nine and the state of Mississippi only had two. So it is a great deal of pleasure for me tonight to invite these people up here for a great presentation.”

The presentation began with RHS Principal Bob Hamlin introducing the club’s sponsors and the club to the board. Then, two members, Kristen Petitjean and Madison Hanks, were also in attendance and both spoke to the board about what helped the club earn national honors and what the club already has begun working on this school year. Petitjean opened her portion of the presentation by discussing the club’s national chapter award. She explained that the club presented an application that continued to place in each round, eventually ending up in the top 10 percent of the nation.

“We present an application every year based on our program of activites,” said Petitjean. “This includes several events that we participated in throughout the year.”

Once it was Hanks’ turn to speak, focus turned from the award itself to activities the club participated in which helped it win the award.

“Last year, we participated in a lot of activities, including a blood drive and a community service project following the tornado that hit Rayne,” said Hanks. “When the tornado hit Rayne, we got a lot of students to come and cleanup at the school.”

Petitjean added that they want to keep their status as a national chapter award-winning club. They plan to do so by having another strong list of activities. She talked about some of the programs and activities the club has already done in just the first month of school.

The club will travel to national convention to accept its award soon.

After congratulating Rayne, the board turned its attention to Debra Siebert, principal of Iota Middle School.

By now, many are well aware of what happened at Iota High School and Iota Middle School a week ago. A masked man equipped with weapons walked into the school in hopes of getting attention. He got it but nothing more thanks, in large part, to Siebert’s calmness and courageousness according to members of the school board and the superintendent.

“You know, with crisis plans, we preach about it all the time, but like life insurance, you hope you never have to use it,” said Superintendent John E. Bourque. “In this case, Iota Middle School did a tremendous job with their crisis plan, under the leadership of Mrs. Siebert. Also the students at Iota High and Iota Middle should be complimented for acting so well during this incident.”

“I didn’t get scared until I went to visit and saw the photos that Dr. (Gibson) Miller had of the intruder.”

The board wasn’t alone in the want to extend their thank you’s and recognition to Siebert as several teachers, a student and Iota High Principal Gibson Miller joined in Monday night.

“It certainly is an honor to have the opportunity to help congratulate Mrs. Siebert,” said Miller. “She always says she wasn’t a hero, but certainly what she did was heroic, and it saved lives at Iota High School and Iota Middle School. Mrs. Siebert, on behalf of Iota High School and its faculty and staff, thank you very much for doing the great job you did. The entire community is grateful.”

After he spoke, the board welcomed Siebert to the floor with a standing ovation where she explained what happened on September 6. But first, she had some thanks of her own to send out.

“It is indeed an honor to work in the town of Iota and be surrounded by such dedicated individuals, from the students to the faculty to the staff members to my fellow coworkers at the high school to the Iota Police Department to the Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office to everyone involved that day,” she said. “It was indeed an honor to have so many dedicated individuals come to our rescue.”

Jokingly, she said that at first she thought it was Dr. Miller playing a trick on her but as she walked closer, she realized something was wrong.

“I kept telling myself ‘This isn’t right, this isn’t right’,” said Siebert, “It was just the scariest thing ever.”

Siebert explained that she knew the school had a crisis plan in place and knew it needed to be followed to ensure the safety of the children not only of her campus but also of IHS.

Within minutes of the confrontations, both schools were put on lockdown as staff members with IMS got in touch with the police. As Siebert put it, the Iota Police Department and APSO “appeared like magic.”

“They were so kind in that they didn’t rush in with a SWAT team or anything like that,” said Siebert. “They just stood there while I talked to him and just made certain that everything was secure.”

She also expressed her gratitude that the intruder would receive the help he needed.

“It is a sad thing when our little ones cry out for help and no one listens,” said Siebert. “We listened to him and told him he would get the help he needed.”

Siebert introduced the faculty and staff of the school in attendance, who she says is the reason that every kid remained safe that day. She also pointed to one of her students in the audience who also spoke about Siebert.

“I was kind of surprised when I saw Ms. Siebert, usually she seems unshakable but when she walked in she was nearly shaking,” said Ben Narby. “I congratulate Mrs. Siebert on her heroic actions. I appreciated it very much.”

Finally, the board presented a certificate and a plaque to Siebert and her staff.

“Only after sitting down and hearing the whole story from beginning to end can you really appreciate the bravery of this woman and the commitment to her school, her students and her community,” said Milton Simar, one of two school board member for the Iota area. “When she walked up to this man, she didn’t know what was going to happen to her and she did it anyway.”

Fellow Iota school board representative Doug Lacombe agreed with Simar’s sentiments.

“One thing that I would like to say is that I think that if I was a student there or had a children there I would have to look up to you today as a hero,” said Lacombe. “You had many children’s lives in your hands that you saved and so, thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.”

As the meeting was winding down, Bourque once again extended his thanks and praise to Siebert as well as all those involved, from the school level to the police to the media, for their work during the Iota incident. He added that while the events are unfortunate, it’s good to know that plans that board and schools have in place work.

He then turned his attention to hearing Petitjean, Hanks and Narby speaking at the meeting.

“It’s always great to have these young people come forward and speak,” said Bourque. “It showcases what truly goes on in our schools and it doesn’t get publicity all the time.

“We have such great kids in our system and as we saw tonight with Mrs. Siebert, we have great people working in our system.”

The school board will hold its October meeting on Oct. 3, 2011.

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