By T. Scott Boatright
Two Lincoln Parish School Board members – District 1’s Danielle Williams and District 2’s David Ferguson — appeared before Grambling’s City Council during that body’s Thursday night meeting to give a report on the LPSB and to drum up support for a coalition they said they’re forming in an attempt to better circumstances for local public school students.
“Since Day One we’ve focused on transparency and test scores for all students. A few months ago the administration suggested to move I.A.Lewis students over to Ruston Junior High School and build a new wing (at RJHS),” Williams said. “They wanted to close Ruston Elementary and move the alternative students to Ruston Elementary and basically expand the alternative school.
“In 2023, if we are talking about expanding the alternative school then we’re moving backward. That’s something we don’t want to do. Another part of the plan was to close Cypress Elementary and move the Central Office there and move the students there to Hillcrest. The plan would basically reset accountability, meaning the schools that are in trouble, and we have several, then the scores for those students would be reset for about three years.”
Williams went on to tell the Grambling City Council that no feasibility assessment, traffic assessment, and no needs assessment was done in conjunction with those planned changes.
“So we voted on a capital outlay project, and the vote was down racial lines,” Williams said. “We defeated the tax, and thank you so much. We packed houses talking about this. We started out here in Grambling with Town Hall meetings, and we had several throughout the course of a week. We basically discussed all the issues when it comes to student achievement, which we have issues with in the school system now.”
Williams then asked the Grambling Council to help pack the Lincoln Parish School Board meetings, starting with the one set for 6 p.m. today.
“Some of the things we requested to be discussed, and we requested to be placed on the agenda, is for the Superintendent to have a diversity committee. We’re asking each board member to suggest a community member to serve on that committee and we’re asking for a neutral person to facilitate that meeting as well.
“Another suggestion is because we’re having issues with the National Honor Society. They revamped the process and when you look at it now, there’s no validity or reliability in it, and it looks like a popularity contest. When there’s a 40% African American population and a 40% caucasian population, everything you do should mirror, but that’s not what’s going on. So that’s another item we’re suggesting.”
Williams said her group also plans to ask Lincoln Parish Schools Superintendent Ricky Durrett to give updates on in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions, and alternative school placement.
“Right now we’ve created a school to prison pipeline, which is an issue,” Williams said.
Ferguson said another issue her group wants “to tackle” is bullying.
“We’re getting a lot of complaints about bullying,” Williams said. “And when we look at the Louisiana Department of Education, there’s a checklist, and we’re not following it.”
Ferguson said he and Williams are forming a coalition to help and try to push some of their plans forward. He also noted that more than 40 kids who participated in a dual-enrollment system for college credit were not recognized during Ruston High School’s recent graduation ceremonies.
“This coalition we want to form will be a group of educators – you don’t have to be a nuclear scientist, just care about the kids in the system. We plan an attack on the academics in the system.”
Ferguson said one of the subgroups the coalition will be looking at will be low-scoring elementary students.
“The population at all four (parish) elementary schools are 60% Black and 40% white. But our Black kids are at the bottom,” Ferguson said. “Now the Hispanics are lower than us. To me, (the school system) is doing nothing to bring these kids’ (scores) up.
“So now the coalition will address these issues. They’re got to do something because our kids are getting further behind. You can see them in the streets – when a kid is not in school, he’s in trouble. Seventy-one Black kids were suspended last year for something they could have probably taken care of themselves. There are a lot of issues.”
Ferguson told the jurors there will be no more ignoring the children of Lincoln Parish or the concerns parents might have.
“We’ll defend everybody,” Ferguson said. “We get more calls from parents about things about what’s going on in our schools, and (administrators) tell us to let them know. But I’m not going to tell them nothing, but if they’re coming to us then they don’t trust (administrators).
“If the atmosphere isn’t pleasant at school for these kids, they’re not going to perform,” Ferguson said. “The teachers aren’t going to perform. We knew every move the higher ups were going to make before they made them because the teachers were calling us.
Williams said the bond election made it a new day for the LPSB.
“When we took on the bond issue I received calls from all ends of the parish, every area,” Williams said. “And people were saying the things we (the LPSB) were doing was morally wrong. The proposals were morally wrong. It wasn’t taking care of all students.
“We want to make sure every student has the opportunity to be successful. And we’re going to make sure we tackle every issue that may come across.