Nearly 15 years in the making and created out of the tragedy of beloved Lafayette musician (and physician) Tommy Comeaux’s death in a cycling accident in 1997, a bachelor’s degree in traditional music — read, Cajun and zydeco — is nearly a reality at UL Lafayette. The university announced recently that the Louisiana Board of Regents has approved the new bachelor of arts program in music focusing on traditional music and the music business. The university in the epicenter of Cajun/Creole culture is awaiting the National Association of Schools of Music to grant accreditation for the program, which will not only teach indigenous music to our sons and daughters but will also be a source of employment for hard-working musicians in traditional music — an art form that provides much joy to locals and a tourism dollars in our coffers but often, unfortunately, something less than a livable wage for its practitioners. Read more about the program on Page 10.
Local officials appear to have been simply doing their jobs in the case involving allegations of inappropriate touching by a Lafayette teacher — except for the police department’s decision to arrest Katie Champagne, 30, for indecent behavior with juveniles before collecting more evidence. Last week a grand jury declined to accept charges against the Lafayette High dance teacher, whom six students claimed had inappropriately touched their breasts and buttocks — in class, in front of other students, all while a video camera was recording. Champagne’s attorney, William Goode, says had police waited for the grand jury to hear the evidence, Champagne would not have been arrested. “In this day and time, everybody has to be hyper-vigilant,” says Goode, arguing Champagne being removed from the classroom and placed on administrative leave would have been a more appropriate course of action, one that would have spared her and her family much expense and humiliation. Champagne has a stellar teaching record, no criminal history and is married and living in the area, posing no risk of flight, he says. Asked if the students simply misinterpreted the touching as something inappropriate, the lawyer remarks, “I think it was more [that the students were] out to get her than misinterpretation.”
How quickly will the St. Martin Parish School board burn through $88,000? Infinitely more quickly than it took the 450 acres of cypress and tupelo trees in a swath of the Atchafalaya Basin to grow into a harvestable commodity. In an epic exercise in short-sightedness, the board last week voted to sell off the acreage in Section 16 of the basin to timber company Good Hope Inc. for what amounts to the entry level salaries of a few teachers. That’s a pristine habitat for migratory birds, a hurricane buffer and a symbol of Louisiana’s natural beauty and abundance in exchange for one-time chump change. All hope isn’t lost, however: It looks like the group Atchafalaya Basinkeepers is poised to fight the sale on legal grounds, and if enough citizens who give a damn about the basin get behind the effort, who knows?
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