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LINCOLN PARISH SCHOOL BOARD Ruston, Louisiana

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LINCOLN PARISH SCHOOL BOARD
Ruston, Louisiana
SPECIAL CALLED SESSION Monday, April 30, 2012 6:00 p.m.
The Lincoln Parish School Board met in Special Called Session on Monday, April 30, 2012, at 6:00 p.m. in the auditorium at Ruston High School, 900 Bearcat Drive, Ruston, Louisiana. Members present were Ms. Debbie Abrahm, Mr. Otha Anders, Mr. Michael Barmore, Ms. Lisa Best, Mr. Curtis Dowling, Mr. Danny Hancock, Ms. Mattie Harrison, Ms. Lynda Henderson, Mr. Trott Hunt, Mr. Eddie Jones, Mr. George Mack, Jr. and Mr. Joe Mitcham. No board member was absent. President Otha Anders called the meeting to order, and the invocation was given by Mr. Dowling. Ms. Harrison led in the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag. Mr. Anders welcomed board members, staff, and the special guests to the meeting. Upon a motion by Mr. Barmore, seconded by Mr. Dowling, the Board unanimously voted to approve the agenda as printed. Mr. Anders thanked the public for their trust and proven support of this trailblazer district. He announced a public hearing to discuss status desegregation litigation in response to the court order relative to elementary school attendance zones in Ruston which was next on the agenda. Mr. Anders summarized the plans for the remainder of the meeting which included:
1) Overview;
2) Options; and,
3) Questions and statements directly related to the elementary school attendance zones in Ruston. Mr. Anders assured the numerous visitors that later in the meeting the administration and board members would listen and seriously consider any comments or suggestions from them that related to the agenda item. Superintendent Danny Bell thanked the members of the Lincoln Parish School Board who he said have spent countless hours meeting and deliberating on the desegregation issue. He asked board members to move from the stage to the first row of seats and turned the floor over to Mr. Bob Hammons, attorney with Hammonds and Sills law firm, who was working with the Board with respect to desegregation. Mr. Bob Hammonds greeted those present and summarized the steps leading up to this meeting. He communicated that he had asked board member to refrain from speaking so the public could be heard. Mr. Hammonds noted that no votes would be taken after the time to hear from the public. A Power Point presentation followed which contained background on the 46 year-old desegregation suit, United States of America v. Lincoln Parish School Board, et al, Civil Action number 12,071, which began in June 1966. The goal is to get the case dismissed because the school system's hands are basically tied until the federal courts declare it unitary. To accomplish that, six Green Factors must be met which are as follows:
1) Facilities;
2) Extra-Curricular;
3) Transportation;
4) Staff Assignment;
5) Faculty Assignment; and,
6) Student Assignment.
Mr. Hammonds was happy to report that after extensive review by federal officials, they are satisfied that Lincoln Parish has not discriminated on the basis of race and has attempted in good faith to comply with the court's rulings. The issue of the relationship with the universities' lab schools must be decided. He will submit a brief to Judge Robbie James in May outlining the school system's beliefs on the issue. The only Green Factor the system must address was number 6 which dealt with achieving racial balance in the four elementary schools in Ruston. The current racial makeup in the four elementary schools was:
INSERT TABLE 1

He enumerated the Board's options which were:
1) Say, “No,” to the judge and let the U. S. Justice Department come up with a plan; or,
2) Attempt to figure out and offer a plan or plans that would satisfy the courts regarding the lab schools and elementary students' school assignments in the City of Ruston.
If successful, the entire case would go away and responsibility would be returned to the locals. Mr. Hammonds feels the Lincoln Parish School Board should submit a plan; therefore, he is asking for a postponement of the reporting deadline of May 7 in order for the Board to meet and vote on a proposal on May 8. The Board was ready to share two options to revise the four elementary schools' attendance zones and achieve racial balance which had just been cleared by the Justice Department. Both of the plans paired Cypress Springs with Glen View and Hillcrest with Ruston Elementary. One of the schools in the pair would have K - 2nd grades, and the other would house grades 3 - 5. Plan A would keep the existing attendance zones, but pushed the limits on capacity in the buildings. Plan B modified district lines to draft more contiguous attendance zones better suited to capacity. He communicated what he considered to be the advantages and disadvantages of each plan. Following that, Mr. Hammonds introduced the demographer the system and Board have been working with, Mike Hefner, and reviewed his areas of expertise. Mr. Hammonds asked Mr. Hefner to review and add further explanation about the plans. Mr. Hefner explained the process he used when working with school systems on desegregation cases. In Lincoln Parish, he used the actual physical addresses of elementary students to determine if four K - 5 schools or grade centers could be utilized. Unfortunately it was impossible to achieve racial balance and keep the numbers within the building capacity. Mr. Hefner called attention to colored maps with corresponding student numbers on the screen. He demonstrated how school attendance lines could be moved and the effects of the same. He described in depth the two plans the Board felt would achieve their goal. In those plans, the racial makeup of students at the schools would be:

INSERT TABLE 2

Bob Hammonds said it was time for the Board and administration to hear from the public regarding the single agenda item: public hearing to discuss status of desegregation litigation in response to the court order relative to elementary school attendance zones in Ruston and the plans they were considering. Approximately twenty people came to the microphone and voiced their questions, comments and observations. Superintendent Bell thanked the guests for coming and said the administration and Board would continue to work toward the best plan for all of the students. He thanked Bob Hammonds and Mike Hefner and asked board members to return to the dais. Otha Anders also thanked those who shared and listened. There being no further business to come before the Board and upon a motion by Ms. Best, the meeting adjourned at 8:27 p.m.
Danny L. Bell, Secretary
Otha L. Anders, President
1td: May 18, 2012

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