EBR school board says lawsuit against state a last resort, but still possible

EBR school board says lawsuit against state a last resort, but still possible
Photo provided by staff

POSTED: Friday, July 19, 2013 - 4:00am

UPDATED: Friday, July 19, 2013 - 4:04am

The East Baton Rouge School Board is playing down the idea of suing the state. But it did not completely dismiss that notion, either.


Board members approved a resolution Thursday evening to discuss its changes to Mayfair Middle School and Delmont Elementary School with the state Department of Education.

This spring, the board approved plans to turn Mayfair into an elementary lab school, with grades K-2 in the coming school year, and to turn Delmont into a Pre-K/kindergarten center. It was, and remains, a controversial decision in the eyes of many.

"I think that the changes the board properly approved for Mayfair and Delmont, in both cases, were really dumb ideas, ill-conceived, and poorly-implemented," Dr. James Finney said Thursday.

Last week, State Superintendent John White rejected part of the plan, which would erase the school performance scores both Delmont and Mayfair had earned in the past. East Baton Rouge Superintendent Bernard Taylor wrote a letter to parents soon after stating he would appeal White's decision.

"According to the policy, and according to the law, you guys have not violated anything," BESE member Carolyn Hill told the board members.

Both Delmont and Mayfair received failing scores the last couple years, and would likely do so again this year. Keeping their scores in place would leave both schools at risk of a takeover by the Recovery School District.

Some of the students displaced by the changes will move into schools that also received failing scores. But the school board said it will work with White to explain how the transitions will give children a chance at a better education.

"I truly believe that we will be able to find a resolution with the state that we can all be pleased with," Barbara Freiberg said.

If discussions break down, though, the district would consider filing a lawsuit to stop the Department of Education from interfering in its plans.

"We vigorously are going to pursue a resolution short of that," Domoine Rutledge, the district's attorney, cautioned. "However, we're going to, along parallel tracks, prepare ourselves to the extent that that happens."

And even one of the district's biggest critics says it is right to fight.

"You made those decisions, and I don't think the superintendent has any standing to second guess them," Finney said. "Particularly at this late a date."

Taylor said more than 1,200 students are on waiting lists for a spot in an elementary magnet school, such as Mayfair. But since the school's selection process has not ended, he could not say if that list would shrink, or by how much.

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