CPSB votes against declaring unitary status

After a heated discussion about the issue of race in Calcasieu Parish Schools, the school board voted against declaring unitary status at a special called meeting Tuesday night.

Board member Bill Jongbloed called the special meeting in an effort to move Calcasieu Parish towards declaring unitary status. "I asked for this 4 years ago, and it took 4 years to get it to this point," said Jongbloed. "We've been kicking this can down the road way too long. I felt like we needed to do something one way or another."

A school district has reached unitary status when the district has fully eliminated the old racially segregated dual system.

Parents and school officials voiced their concerns at Tuesday night's meeting. The CPSB board's attorney Gerard Caswell discussed where exactly he felt Calcasieu Parish stood as far as unitary status.

"As best as I can determine, this system has been partially declared unitary with regard to everything except for 'student assignment' in Ward 3," said Caswell.

If the school board had decided to seek unitary status they would have gone before federal court. The court would then determine whether or not Calcasieu Parish meets the requirements of a unitary district.

CPSB member Bill Jongbloed feels Calcasieu Parish is well integrated and ready to be declared a unitary district.

"This has nothing to do with race because our schools are all integrated," said Jongbloed. "I want the schools to stay integrated. It has everything to do with extreme overcrowding."

According to the attendance department, 451 students that attend Barbe High School are currently attending school out of district. If the students did attend where they actually live, then 253 students would be sent to LaGrange High School and 201 would be sent to Washington Marion High School.

"I think that if everyone went back to their schools, the scores would go up and we wouldn't have low performing schools," said R. L. Webb, a CPSB member.

Other board members disagree, however. Board member Mack Delafosse said it should be about equal opportunity for the students.

"Don't believe for one minute that we love sending our kids to another school away from our neighborhoods," said Mack Delafosse, a CPSB member. "All we want is for our kids to have the same opportunity for education as everybody else that's what this is about."

Tuesday night's motion to declare unitary status failed with a vote of 6 to 8. Jongbloed said this is the last time he plans to bring the issue to the table.

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