AMITE — The Tangipahoa Parish School Board voted Tuesday, with one dissent, to send a student assignment plan to federal court in New Orleans in the hopes it might end the school district’s 50-year-old desegregation suit.
The plan would alter enrollment zones next school year to better reach a racial balance in the schools while maintaining the parish’s magnet schools.
For example, the plan would move a number of black students from Hammond area high schools, which are predominantly black, to Loranger High, which is predominantly white. And more black students would attend Ponchatoula High.
The Duncan plan — named for School Board member Brett Duncan, who devised the proposal a year ago — also would retain Hammond High as a disrictwide magnet school.
The case, dormant for many years, was resurrected seven years ago. Since then, the School Board and plaintiffs have made numerous appearances before federal Judge Ivan Lemelle trying to hammer out an agreement that would free the school system from federal oversight.
Board member Sandra Simmons, who represents the Loranger area, declined to attend the executive session. “Nothing ever gets settled back there,” she said.
Simmons and board member Andy Anderson tried to alter the proposal with two amendments, both of which failed.
At that point, some audience members left the meeting room, slamming the door loudly as they departed.
That prompted board member Rose Dominguez to voice her disappointment in the years of legal wrangling. “It’s time it get resolved,” she said.
Simmons rejoined: “I want to get this settled also, but I have to think about the people who live in the district I represent. Many of them moved there because of the quality of our schools in that area.”
Duncan noted that at one point Lemelle had ordered the School Board to build three new schools and make vast changes to the school system.
“By using both voluntary student relocation through our successful magnet programs and drawing some new attendance zones we have a chance to get this thing over with,” Duncan said.
When the final vote came, only Simmons voted against the measure. Voting for it, in addition to Duncan, Dominguez, Link, Anderson and McDaniel, were Christina Cohea, Ann Smith and a newly sworn-in member of the board, Michael Wells.
At the outset of the meeting, the board voted unanimously to name Wells to fill the unexpired term of Eric Dangerfield, who resigned from the board last month after being found guilty of misdemeanor Medicare fraud.