St. James School Board agrees to request for community meeting

The St. James Parish School Board has agreed to take part in a community meeting organized by the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People regarding the future of Lutcher and Fifth Ward elementary schools.

St. James Parish NAACP President Debra Bartley asked board members at a meeting Tuesday if they would be willing to address several problems community members have with the schools.

Bartley cited a lack of high-performing teachers and after-school programs, including tutoring, at both schools and a stubbornly leaky roof at Lutcher Elementary School.

Both elementary schools were targeted to close over the next few years after a consulting firm hired by the School Board projected a decline in enrollment and a population shift away from the neighborhoods due to encroaching industry.

But after an outcry in the community, the School Board ultimately decided to postpone closing the schools.

The future of the schools is still unclear, however.

“Since the decision of the St. James Parish School Board to permit Lutcher Elementary and Fifth Ward Elementary to remain open, no long-term resolution has been decided nor openly discussed with the public,” Bartley said.

St. James Parish Schoos Superintendent Alonzo Luce said school system maintenance workers were doing what they could to continue to patch the roof at Lutcher Elementary School, but board member Ken Foret dismissed it as a temporary solution.

“I’m telling you it’s not working,” Foret said. “The only way to fix it is a new roof.”

“We need to be fair to of all of these kids and stop worrying about closing these schools because we get enough tax dollars,” School Board member Patricia Schexnayder said.

Bartley asked School Board to make a 15-minute presentation at the planned community meeting and take questions from the people attending about the future of the two elementary schools.

Board members George Nassar, Jr., Diana Cantillo, Charles Nailor, Carol Lambert, Ricky Reulet, Jr., Foret and Schexnayder all supported the motion to participate in a community meeting.

Bartley said she would email the board members more information about the community meeting and its date when she discussed it with NAACP members.

In other business coming before the School Board, School District Test Coordinator Rhonda Lee informed the School Board the district is the recipient of a three-year, $1.92 million grant through the state Department of Education to provide students who are below their benchmark levels with service-related learning experience.