East St. John Elementary is on winning track

Published 12:02 am Saturday, May 6, 2017

RESERVE — As the principal at East St. John Elementary School, Stacy Bradford has learned to wear many different hats.

Sometimes, he wears even a whistle.

Bradford also seems to have brought together a winning team of teachers and coaches who are achieving goals and have a slew of trophies to show for it.

In just this school year, the Bobcats have won the girls basketball and volleyball parish championships.

Most recently, a combined team with Lake Pontchartrain Elementary won the baseball championship.

“The Pelicats,” Bradford joked.

The track team, meanwhile, was busy accumulating 17 first place finishes at various meets throughout the area, with eighth grader Ahmonte Watkins taking home three individual MVP trophies.

The eighth grader has run under 11 seconds in the 100 meter dash consistently all year, hitting a personal best of 10.96.

Second grader Serai Gaines reached 14 feet, 5 inches in the long jump.

Seventh grader Qu’dre Shepard excels in several events.

The boys basketball team nearly made the list, but finished second by one point.

It’s not all about athletics either.

Bradford boasts his STEM team finished first at a competition at Tulane, his Beta Club took first at the state convention and his school produced the district’s fifth grade student of the year, Norshelys Lopez.

Bradford also was named St. John the Baptist Parish principal of the year.

“We win everything over here,” Bradford said.

Mark Creecy, who coaches the track team, the boys basketball team and assists Chad Smith with football, said it’s a good team of coaches.

“It’s a combination of good teachers, good coaches and a winning culture,” he said.

School office specialist Tamika Collins, a former East St. John High basketball player, coaches the girls basketball team.

Johnika Gayden assists with track and, well, everything. She is the assistant principal.

Bradford often pitches in, as well.

“I try to explain to my principal friends, you have to be willing to step out of that normal being in the office all day,” Bradford said. “With our school, with our population, athletics is the key. Our kids love athletics. I can say to a kid, ‘Look. If you cut up we’re going to pull you from the team.’ And it works.

“This kid stays out of trouble, he does his work, he pays attention in class. If it works for them academically, I’m going to use it for motivation.”

Bradford is no stranger to coaching. The Deridder native has worked stints at several high schools, including West St. John High.

Once he got to East St. John Elementary, though, he fast tracked into administration and has been the principal for three years.

Bradford is no stranger to Creecy, either.

The two were track athletes and roommates at Southern University in the late 1990s.

Reunited at East St. John Elementary this year, they have worked to make the best of a difficult situation.

In 2015 the school had to relocate to the old Leon Godchaux Junior High campus in Reserve after a fire gutted the Reserve building. It is still undergoing repairs.

Bradford said the move was a blessing in disguise.

“This facility is old and kind of raggedy here and there, but we have everything we need,” Bradford said. “We have a gymnasium here. We have fields in the back that the kids can practice on. The majority of the time the high school track would be locked. Here, it’s just ours. We have the levee right there. The track is gravel, but they can still run on it. We have more here despite it not being new than we had at the old site. That’s one of the things we’re fighting for is that gymnasium when we get that new school. Since we have been winning here, I think it would be beneficial to these kids to have that.”