OPELOUSAS — Protestors carrying signs criticizing the academic quality and hiring practices in St. Landry Parish public schools gathered outside the St. Landry School Board office Thursday.
Two protesters presented their grievances during the monthly board meeting.
One protester, Victor Lewis, asked the board to terminate the contract of Superintendent Michael Nassif, while another speaker, Clifton Lemelle, said the school district needs to hire more black educators, especially men, who would serve in school level administrative positions.
Lewis and his wife, Tiffani Lewis, were removed by police officers at an August meeting after they were not allowed to continue speaking to the board about what they said is a pattern of poor academic achievement in Opelousas public schools.
Victor and Tiffani Lewis were asked to leave the meeting, because the item they chose to discuss was not on the meeting agenda, board attorney Gerard Caswell said.
Before the start of Thursday’s meeting the board issued a unanimous resolution of apology for the removal of the Lewises. The pair has also led an unsuccessful attempt to get the school district to sanction a charter school in Opelousas.
Lemelle, a former educator from the school district, told the board the district needs to hire more black educators.
In Eunice, Lemelle said, the public schools have 31 black teachers although the student population is 44 percent black.
Opelousas has 113 black teachers, but the city has 3,696 black students in public schools, Lemelle said.
Representatives involved in Thursday’s protest passed out an informational fact sheet, which alleged that seven of 11 schools in Opelousas received failing grades on state test scores and that Opelousas Junior High and Eunice Junior High have experienced incidents of recent violence.
In another matter, board member Anthony Standberry said he plans to meet with Nassif, representatives of the Opelousas Police Department and state law enforcement agencies about developing a security plan for Opelousas Junior High.
Last month, city police arrested at least two juveniles after a firearm was discharged near the school campus.
Nassif told the board that since the incident, a police radio has been installed at OJHS, dismissal bells have been staggered, increased K-9 searches have been launched and city police have provided increased security.
The board also accepted a request by OJHS Principal Ryan Hooks for sick leave effective Sept. 7. Hooks’ sick leave status is scheduled to end June 30, according to a Personnel Committee report approved by the board.