East Baton Rouge’s lowest rated public schools are likely to become part of a new “transformation zone,” where school leaders will get years of outside assistance and more financial resources to help them improve to higher letter grades.

Initially, the zone would include 29 schools rated D or F, the vast majority from the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, along with a handful of other schools overseen by the state-run Recovery School District. The zone would likely remain in place for at least five years.

The proposed new zone came up at a panel discussion Wednesday featuring East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Warren Drake and four of his top administrators.

It marks the latest initiative to try to turn around chronically low performing public schools in Baton Rouge. As far back as 2003, then Superintendent Clayton Wilcox created a similar zone with 23 low performing schools, which he called PASS, or Pathway to Student Success.

One of the people sitting next to Drake for the panel discussion at Juban’s Restaurant, Quentina Timoll, has been tasked with figuring out to work to raise up these schools.

Timoll started working in August as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction position. Timoll previously held the same position in St. John the Baptist Parish public schools.

“We’re talking about the possibility of a transformation zone that encompasses those schools so we can really meet the needs of those struggling schools and those struggling students,” Timoll told the luncheon audience at the panel, which was organized by the nonprofit group, Volunteers In Public Schools.

Timoll said the proposed zone is still in its infancy.

The school system recently landed a $30,000 planning grant from the state to help figure out what it will do with its D and F schools. Timoll said she and Dana Peterson, who runs the Recovery School District in Baton Rouge, are teaming up to apply for a much larger grant that could bring with it millions of dollars.

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires that states set aside 7 percent of their federal education dollars that assist disadvantaged students. Louisiana’s plan for implementing the federal law was recently approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

Timoll said the school system is in talks with the Santa Monica, Ca.-based nonprofit National Institute for Excellence in Teaching. NIET, she said, would work leaders and staff at low performing schools on ways to improve their instruction.

NIET was founded by Lowell Milken. Milken, brother of junk bond king Michael Milken, has been influential in public education primarily through a school reform effort his foundation has championed called the Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP.

NIET’s president and chief development officer is Patrice Pujol, former superintendent in Ascension Parish. Ascension has long had schools that used TAP.

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.