After days of bitter arguments, Lafayette School Board member Jeremy Hidalgo on Friday called for more collaboration among community leaders over what name a new high school in Youngsville should bear.
“Political posturing and/or pandering, grandstanding has no place in the naming of our new high school,” Hidalgo said at a news conference held in front of Comeaux High School. “This new school will serve to bring our communities closer together under the common bond of education, arts and high school athletics. The naming of our newest high school — no matter the name — must be a reflection of that bonding and coming together.”
Four names are in contention for the new high school, which is set to be built on board-owned property in Youngsville. The high school will draw primarily from students currently zoned to attend Comeaux High and will be the first new high school built in the parish in more than 50 years.
The school’s naming committee pared down a list of 17 suggestions Monday to four: Caneview, Cypress, Veterans Memorial and Youngsville and left that meeting with homework to rank their preferences and submit them to the school system’s district planning administrator, Sandra Billeaudeau.
After Billeaudeau shared the rankings on Tuesday, showing Caneview and Cypress as the top two choices of committee members and Youngsville coming in third, it set off a firestorm of complaints and criticism.
Youngsville city officials made it clear they want the school to be named Youngsville High, and Mayor Ken Ritter questioned the process the committee used to make its recommendation.
Broussard Mayor Charles Langlinais and city officials, meanwhile, issued a statement on Wednesday in support of Caneview and warned that naming the high school after Youngsville could lead to a lack of support of the board’s tax proposal that’s on the April 9 ballot.
Ritter demanded access to the votes cast by committee, provoking a heated discussion with Billeaudeau, who defended the committee’s process and called Ritter’s reaction unnecessary.
Ritter said Friday he’s not “stuck” on Youngsville High as the name and said, “I want the process to work.” The Youngsville council has asked the board to name the school after the city and the council has committed to paying for water and sewer infrastructure for the project, which is estimated at about $750,000.
Hidalgo, who attended Monday’s advisor committee meeting, said he felt it was a transparent process and also said that he thought Ritter’s request to view the votes was a legitimate request.
The school will be located in the district that Hidalgo represents. Several communities and cities, including Broussard, Youngsville and Milton, will be sending students to the new school.
“The naming of our new high school should come from a collaborative effort of those municipalities and communities — a team effort if you will, that speaks to all the things that make Lafayette Parish a great place to live, work and raise a family,” Hidalgo said.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.