The Tangipahoa Parish School Board will ask a federal judge to permit changes to its court-ordered desegregation plan without the agreement of the plaintiffs, the board decided Tuesday.
The modifications would allow for construction of three new schools and the placing of a Career Education Center at Kentwood High School, board attorney Charles Patin said during a special meeting Tuesday morning.
Pay increases for teachers and the hiring of art and music teachers at the elementary schools, which were part of the original court-ordered plan, would be eliminated, he said.
The board voted 7-2 to instruct Patin to file the motion with the modified proposal. Members Sandra Bailey Simmons and Andy Anderson voted no.
If U.S. District Court Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle rejects the changes, he has the legal authority to order the School Board to impose a tax on the parish to facilitate desegregation, Patin said, adding that Lemelle could also order busing.
The modifications are necessary after four tax proposals to fund the plan failed April 30.
The original desegregation plan called for building five new schools and renovations at 30 others.
The construction was to be funded by 29.5 mills in new property taxes and a third 1-cent sales tax.
Voters overwhelmingly defeated the new taxes.
The modified plan the board will propose resembles a compromise proposal that board attorneys made to plaintiffs attorneys after the April vote, Patin said.
They were unable to come to an agreement with plaintiffs attorneys Nelson Taylor and James Gray, Patin said.
With the modifications, the three new schools will be built: one each west of Hammond, north of Loranger and south of Loranger, Patin said.
A new Career Education Center, which would have been in the southern part of the parish under the original plan, would be put at Kentwood High in the northern part of the parish, Patin said.
The board could use revenue from a second 1-cent sales tax to sell bonds to fund the construction, Patin said.
The sales tax brings in about $6.5 million per year he said.
The board rejected, by a 5-4 vote, a substitute motion by Sandra Bailey Simmons that would have instructed Patin to file a motion that permitted children from the Loranger area to attend middle and high schools in Loranger.
Under the modified plan, children who attend Loranger schools would be split between Hammond and Amite area schools.
The fallout from that decision spilled into a meeting of the Loranger delegation, when Simmons angrily confronted Board President Rose Dominguez over concerns about kindergarten bathrooms at Loranger elementary.
“Well, if it’s so wonderful, why don’t we put them in your yard or at Ponchatoula High School?” Simmons yelled.
Dominguez represents Ponchatoula.
Kindergarten students at Loranger Elementary must walk outside the school building to go to the bathroom and the area often floods, Simmons said.
The delegation voted to conduct a study of drainage problems at the site and possibly move or replace the bathrooms after the study was complete.