AMITE — The 46-year-old Tangipahoa Parish school desegregation case hit another snag Monday when the deadline for filing a compromise motion passed with no compromise filed.
Instead, an attorney for the School Board filed a motion to extend the deadline to Aug. 24.
Further complicating matters was the abrupt resignation from the school system Friday of Lynell Y. Higgenbotham, the school district’s desegregation implementation officer.
Higgenbotham submitted her letter of resignation, effective immediately, after 4 p.m. Friday, Superintendent Mark Kolwe announced at a Monday morning Personnel Committee meeting.
Kolwe said he had no inkling of Higgenbotham’s plan to resign.
Higgenbotham sat on two committees that oversaw hiring in the system, Kolwe said.
“Everything’s pretty well in place for start of the school year,” he said. “There are no administrative vacancies at this time.”
School Board President Rose Dominguez said the resignation caught her off guard.
“She spoke at our in-service Thursday, and there were no indications at that time,” Dominguez said.
Higgenbotham’s departure could affect the desegregation case, said Nelson Taylor, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.
“We are concerned,” he said.
Taylor filed a motion in May asking U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle to find Kolwe in contempt for, in part, his treatment of Higgenbotham.
The motion alleged that Kolwe created a hostile work environment for Higgenbotham.
Kolwe was accused in the motion of “subtly ignoring” and “brazenly excluding her from the decision making process.”
The motion also accuses Kolwe of overburdening Higgenbotham with reporting and administrative tasks, and denying her the staff she requires.
At the time, Higgenbotham refused to comment on the allegations in the motion.
Taylor said he plans to file motions this week that could address both the compromise and Higgenbotham’s departure.
Higgenbotham did not return calls to her personal phone Monday for comment.
Attorneys for the board and the plaintiffs reached a verbal agreement July 7 on a compromise that would allow the school system to proceed with the court-approved desegregation plan despite the voters’ rejection of four tax proposals included in the plan, according to the motion to move the deadline.
Judge Lemelle set Aug. 8 as the deadline for filing a joint motion describing the compromise, court documents show.
In the motion to move the deadline, defendant’s attorneys Charles Patin and Ashley Sandage contend they have sent two drafts of the compromise to Taylor, but had no response.