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Pictured from left to right are Evangeline Parish Schools Supervisor Linda LaFleur, Evangeline Parish Superintendent of Schools and Rotarian Darwan Lazard, Evangeline Parish Schools Technology Technician Kyle LaFleur, Evangeline Parish Schools Supervisor Sherral Tezeno, Ville Platte Rotary President Peter Strawitz, and Evangeline Parish Assistant Superintendant of Schools Michael Lombas. (Gazette photos by Tony Marks)

Of lobbying and enrolling

Ville Platte Rotary hears about lobbying in D.C. and dual enrolling at LSUE

Elizabeth Coffin, daughter of Ville Platte Rotarians Bob and Barbara Buroker, is a corporate lobbyist in Washington D.C. and shared how a Sacred Heart graduate got to be a lobbyist at a recent Rotary meeting.
Coffin graduated from Sacred Heart in 1987 and then received her degree in political science from Loyola University. She later got her law degree, and, as she said, found herself “married to a military man.”
She continued, “We had our first baby, and my husband got a lucky assignment at LSU. Now, I’m a lawyer who’s not been to a Louisiana law school, but I passed the bar in Ohio. I took the Louisiana bar exam eight-months pregnant for my second child.”
Upon passing the bar in Louisiana, Coffin went to work as a tax attorney for the state Department of Revenue. After years of working there, she decided to go back to school for a specialty degree in tax law. However, there were no schools in the state to offer that program.
“The closest was in Dallas, but the very top schools were in Florida, New York, and D.C.,” she explained. “I was accepted to Georgetown, and so I moved with my family to the northern Virginia area and got my master’s of law in tax.”
Coffin then clerked for a U.S. Tax Court judge who was from Simmesport and later worked for Representative Jim McCrery from Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District.
“He was a senior Republican and served on the Ways and Means Committee,” Coffin said of Congressman McCrery. “That’s the committee that makes tax policy.”
She continued, “Somehow or another, my Louisiana background and my career steps I had taken to that point all were coming together.”
It was while working for the congressman that Coffin decided to make the jump to being a lobbyist.
“It teaches you the process by which laws really are made, the steps they go through, and how much input is really needed as those committees are writing legislation,” she said.
“I don’t shy away from introducing myself as a lobbyist because I want people to know what the profession really looks like,” she concluded. “I interact with many lobbyists in Washington, and I consider it a great career option, a very honorable profession, and one that is in fact protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.”
During this past Rotary meeting on Tuesday, Evangeline Parish Superintendent of Schools and Rotarian Darwan Lazard along with other staff members briefed the Rotary Club on new learning opportunities across the school district.
“As superintendant, my goals are to create a first rate school system and then to provide multiple opportunities for students to be successful,” Lazard said. “I fully understand and recognize every student will not be successful on the same path, but I do believe every student can find some success.”
“We are constantly trying to generate different things to place before students that they can choose and can get involved that will hopefully help them to either get ready for the university track, technical school track, or if they want to go directly into the workforce,” he continued.
Through help with Executive Director of the Evangeline Parish Chamber of Commerce Renee Brown and others, Lazard was able to work out partnerships with South Louisiana Community College Coreil Campus and Ville Platte Iron Works to provide machinist opportunities for high school students in Evangeline Parish.
Lazard along with Assistant Superintendant Michael Lombas then shared updates on the LSUE Academy and dual enrollment.
“We had 877 college credits that were earned this year and mostly paid for by the Evangeline Parish School Board,” Lazard said.
As Lombas explained, “Dual enrollment is paid for through SCA (supplemental course allocation) funding which is given to us by the state. This year we were given $139,000.00 to spend for students taking dual enrollment through LSUE and SLCC.”
He continued, “We are also able to access PEL grants. LSUE has written a grant for their university and is one of the few universities in the United States with the ability to access students’ PEL grants while they are still in high school.”
Use of the PEL grants has meant the parish is not spending all of the SCA funds. “We’re trying to get more kids to take dual enrollment,” said Lombas. “It’s free college tuition.”
He continued, “We had many students graduate with 30, 40, or 50 hours of college credit. Thirty-hours is a full year. That’s a full year of free college tuition. Then, if they’re getting TOPS, TOPS is for eight semesters. They can actually get their master’s degree for free. We want to expand this program to get as many children involved as possible in dual enrollment.”
Lombas then updated the Rotary Club on the parish’s virtual school and the landing program for teachers.
Supervisor Sherral Tezeno, earlier in the meeting, presented a video along with gifts as a way of thanking those Rotarians for taking part in the Choices program.

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