Attorney Bob Hammonds addressed those gathered at the special called school board meeting Oct. 10. Hammonds explained what the decision to grant the Natchitoches School System unitary status means going forward. (Watch Video Below)
“This is a monumental development for this parish,” said Hammonds. “Your board now has control back for the first time in over 30 years and I think that’s a major accomplishment and something they should be proud of. I think I know the school board well enough to know that this is the beginning of the race. They are going to continue to press for the changes in this system that will benefit all the children.”
The decision to grant the Natchitoches School System unitary status came down from Judge D. Drell on Sept. 29. The judge found good faith on the part of the School Board in implementing the various desegregation obligations. The board satisfied all of its obligations in the area of teacher recruitment, specifically looking for the recruitment of minority teachers into the system. Judge Drell also indicated that the system has been operating under its current plan with just a couple modifications in the area of student assignment for many years now and he felt satisfied that the board had reached unitary status in that area as well.
However, the record of this case reflects the racial division on this board that’s existed from time to time, despite the fact that this litigation has been pending since 1980, over 35 years. The court found issues with the way the board members got along with one another and their inability to be as professional as they should be with each other from time to time. Hammonds said he received a commitment from this board during an executive session at the start of the meeting that they will strive to make particular efforts to do something about the situation.
Hammonds said it’s important to agree to disagree, but do so in a professional fashion. The board exists for the sole purpose of delivering quality education to the children under its care, all while upholding a non-discriminatory atmosphere. Petty squabbling and vestiges of old patterns of inter-board behavior are simply unacceptable in this day and time.
“You’ll always have people with a difference of opinion and that’s what makes this country great,” he said. “It’s just the way you express those differences that matter.”
Judge Drell said that for this reason, and although the court granted unitary status, it’s appropriate to provide a period of transition before this case is dismissed in its entirety. The court will retain jurisdiction over this case for a period of slightly more than 3 years, until Dec. 31, 2020 to monitor the school district’s efforts to maintain the progress it’s made to comply with federal law and this court order.
The one order that will remain in effect is the pairing of LP Vaughn and Parks because it was done subject to certain conditions. The school district was going to put additional things into affect at the consolidated school for the benefit of the students. The court said it doesn’t have any data yet whether it has worked or not. The court requests that the board implement the consolidation and the additional things they offered to do when they came to the judge to request the ability to consolidate those schools.
This is the only court order remaining. The rest have now been removed. Control of the school system is returned to the board which is the way it’s supposed to work. Now all decisions in regards to student matters, transfer policies, school admissions, school zones returns to the elected school board members.
During this 3-year period, any party is free to file an appropriate non-frivolous motion, which means the court will look at any motion that might be filed and decide if they’re even going to consider it. It needs to be really weighty for the court to give it much consideration. After Dec. 31, 2020, the district may file a motion to dismiss the case. There will be a hearing at that time. If there are no issues the court will sign off on it and the case will be gone forever.