Plans to transform Pointe Coupee Central High School into a much-touted Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Arts Academy could likely be shelved.
Four of the eight School Board members contacted Wednesday said they’re prepared to temporarily pump the brakes on the ambitious endeavor because the board has enough on its plate in trying to hire a new school superintendent by June 30.
Two other board members want to immediately open the school, with one member pushing for the STEM Academy and the other pushing its return to a regular school.
The Advocate was unable to contact board members Tom Nelson and James “Bado” Cline on Wednesday.
Board President Frank Aguillard said the time the district has to revamp the now-closed Central campus into a STEM Academy narrows daily because the proposed plan has yet to be approved by a U.S. District Court judge.
“We haven’t gotten the approval yet because our attorney hasn’t filed (the proposal) yet,” Aguillard said Wednesday. “Our attorney is waiting for a response from the U.S. Justice Department and the plaintiffs in the desegregation lawsuit before he files it with the court.”
U.S. District Judge James J. Brady closed Pointe Coupee Central High last year at the request of the state’s Recovery School District after it failed to improve the school’s academic performance during the six years it was under state control.
In order to return jurisdiction of the campus to the parish School Board, the RSD had to ask for court permission because the school district remains under federal court supervision for not having fully complied with desegregation orders.
In his April 2014 decision, Brady also ordered the school system to submit a plan to court outlining future use of the Central campus.
Superintendent Linda D’Amico in November got a majority of the School Board to support her STEM Academy proposal.
The superintendent has said the curriculum in her proposal would be guided by Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit organization that helps school districts across the nation develop project-based science, technology, engineering and math programs.
The School Board has already set a special meeting April 20 to interview the 12 individuals who applied for the superintendent position.
“We’re hiring a new superintendent by June 30 and that individual needs to be involved” in the STEM Academy issue, board president Aguillard said. “That person may have different ideas.”
Board members Bobby Jarreau and Brandon Bergeron shared Aguillard’s sentiments.
However board member Les Ann Grezaffi remains optimistic the board could hire a new superintendent and get the STEM Academy up and running within four months.
“I want us to get it going; what will be will be,” she said Wednesday. “If I could get it today I’d get it today. I’m not going to put a timeline on the board.”
While board member Anita LeJeune echoed Grezaffi’s enthusiasm for the STEM Academy, she said she doesn’t have a problem with postponing the endeavor until next year to ensure its success.
Board member Chad Aguillard is also holding out hope that Central will reopen this fall, but not as a STEM Academy. He’d like to see it as a traditional high school.
Chad Aguillard, who voted against D’Amico’s STEM proposal along with board member Nelson, said he still has doubts the idea will get the community support it needs to succeed in Pointe Coupee Parish.
“I don’t want to see the school stay vacant another year because of us,” Chad Aguillard said. “We need to reopen that school because taxpayers paid for it. I think we would get it together. I know doing that will be a question I ask candidates on April 20.”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.