She may have won the battle, but she lost the war. That’s the situation in which Tangipahoa Parish School Board member Sandra Bailey-Simmons, who represents an area that includes the town of Loranger, finds herself these days.
In the run-up to the April school tax election, Bailey-Simmons was a vocal opponent of the plan’s passage.
When the parish’s voters agreed with her by overwhelming margins, she was exultant.
“People did not want the plan or the tax,” she said at the time.
She also cited School Board “arrogance” as something the community had rejected.
Another aspect of the School Board’s court-approved desegregation plan involved taking children from the Loranger schools and sending them to schools in Amite and Hammond.
When the School Board voted in July to accept the framework of a compromise proposal, the taxes were gone, but splitting up the Loranger district was still in.
Bailey-Simmons was incensed.
“This affects 560 kids in my district at my last count,” she said. “I was under the impression that we would vote later on the plan again.”
Bailey-Simmons also has been upset about the ponderous nature of the board’s response to her complaints about kindergarten restrooms at Loranger Elementary.
The restrooms are woefully inadequate, Bailey-Simmons asserts. Drainage around the area is so bad that water often covers the walkway leading to the restrooms, she adds.
Bailey-Simmons’ repeated efforts to allocate School Board funds for a new portable restroom building for kindergarten students have been thwarted by tie votes in Loranger delegation meetings.
On July 19, Bailey-Simmons took the battle to the full board.
“I have brought pictures tonight,” she said, noting several times in which delegation votes had gone against the restrooms. “We have no hope for a new restroom for 130 kindergarteners using four toilets.”
“The current building is 15 years old, a temporary building,” she said
Bailey-Simmons then paraphrased a quotation attributed to Martin Niemöller, 1892-1984, a German pastor and opponent of Adolf Hitler who spent years in Nazi concentration camps.
“First, they came for the communists,” she recited. “I did not speak up, because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade-unionists. I did not speak up because I was not a trade-unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak up, because I was not a Jew.”
Bailey-Simmons paused to say, “I am adding my own language here,” and resumed her remarks, “Then they came for Loranger, and I did not speak up, because I was not from Loranger.”
Bailey-Simmons moved for board approval of “a new portable, or a new permanent building, or whatever.”
Board members responded by voting unanimously to conduct a drainage study and to instruct architects to develop plans for a new, permanent solution to the restroom problem.
This, however, wasn’t enough for Bailey-Simmons.
“No, not really,” when asked if she was satisfied with the vote.
“If the costs go over $125,000, it has to go to the judge, and he isn’t ever going to give us a bathroom.
“I told my husband, ‘I knew we weren’t going to win, but at least I have said my piece.’ ”
Faimon Roberts covers the Florida Parishes. He can be reached at