Audience applauds as Lafayette School Board takes schools-of-choice priority enrollment proposition off the table _lowres

Mary Morrison, Elroy Broussard

A controversial proposal to offer priority enrollment for students who live near schools of choice campuses in Lafayette Parish is no longer on the table.

The Lafayette Parish School Board voted 7-0 Wednesday night to remove the issue from the board’s agenda, prompting loud applause from a standing room-only crowd. Board members Tehmi Chassion and Britt Latiolais were absent.

The schools of choice program allows students to attend schools out of their attendance zones and take specialized classes in a variety of subjects. Students who apply for the program are chosen through a computerized lottery.

The measure would have given students who live within a 1-mile radius of schools of choice campuses priority enrollment without having to go through the lottery. It would have affected the five schools in Lafayette Parish that enroll students only through schools of choice applications: J. Wallace James Elementary, L. Leo Judice Elementary, Myrtle Place Elementary, David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy and Early College Academy.

“We do not want to disrupt the choice program and the way it’s working now,” said Elroy Broussard, one of two board members who initially proposed the changes.

Opponents of the proposal said it would have greatly reduced the chances for students outside of those school zones and increased the number of students enrolling in specialized programs out of convenience because they live near the school.

Others said it would have affected the district’s court-ordered desegregation order. Two schools of choice use lottery systems that ensure 49 percent of the student population qualifies for free or reduced lunch.

Justin Centanni, the other board member who proposed the change, said he has no plans to reintroduce the proposal .

In other business, the board voted unanimously to defer action on hiring a company to install cameras on school buses to take pictures of motorists violating school bus traffic laws, like passing a school bus that has its stop sign deployed.

The board also voted 6-1 to add three school system positions — educational diagnosticians, school psychologists and social workers who work on pupil appraisal teams — to the list of employees who receive the “14th check,” an annual extra check given to teachers that’s funded from a 2002 sales tax dedicated to teacher pay raises.

In 2014, the 14th check was $1,200. It fluctuates each year depending on sales tax collections.

The board voted in May to remove more than 100 employees from the 14th check list because they were not classroom teachers.

Board member Erick Knezek said the three positions added to the list are considered assessment teachers. They work together to evaluate students and determine whether they qualify for special-education services.

Board President Tommy Angelle, who voted against the measure, said he did so because “every time you add someone, you take away from a teacher who has students all day.”