2 EBR schools may face state takeover

Two Baton Rouge public schools are moving closer to possible state takeover this fall, and the East Baton Rouge Parish school system may go to court to stop that from happening.

The latest in the saga of Delmont Elementary and Mayfair Middle schools played out last week.

The state on Thursday rejected, for a second time, the school system’s request to belatedly recognize the closing and reopening of these schools this past summer. Delmont is now an early childhood center, and Mayfair has become a small, selective elementary school modeled after LSU Lab School.

Accepting those changes — and in response, granting these schools new site codes — would restart the clock for Delmont and Mayfair, allowing the new programs there to start fresh, without being saddled by years of low test scores and the threat of imminent state takeover of their buildings the state’s Recovery School District.

State Superintendent of Education John White, however, remains unmoved.

White explained his reasons in a letter he sent Thursday to East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Bernard Taylor. His arguments are similar to ones he made July 11 when he first denied Taylor’s request for new site codes for Delmont and Mayfair.

“The plan to relocate hundreds of children from open enrollment schools and to create selective enrollment schools in the facilities thus does not constitute a plan for improvement for the children originally served by Mayfair and Delmont,” White wrote.

Taylor on Monday said he plans to reach out to White again in hopes of getting him to change his mind. “I don’t believe his letter closes the door to a possible resolution,” Taylor said.

At the end of his letter, White pointedly reminded Taylor that his office is still weighing whether to recommend a state takeover of one or both of those facilities and put new schools in those buildings.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is scheduled to consider school takeovers in October. Any new takeovers would not take effect until the 2014-15 school year.

In interviews, White has maintained that his office has not made a decision on whether to take over Delmont and Mayfair.

After White’s initial denial, the parish School Board enlisted the Hammonds & Sills law firm to research possible legal action.

First, though, the school system lodged an administrative appeal, which was filed Wednesday by attorney Bob Hammonds.

Just a day later, on Thursday, White rejected it.

Taylor continues to maintain that every student who attended Delmont and Mayfair last year was reassigned to a higher-performing school.

“I think the numbers speak to the fact that we have addressed his concerns,” Taylor said Monday.

White disagreed.

“The most recent information notes that more than 60 percent of those students have been assigned to schools that either received a ‘D’ or an ‘F’ or that have not existed prior to this year and thus have received no letter grade at all,” White wrote Thursday.

In its appeal, the school system details the 966 students who attended Delmont and Mayfair last year and the 77 schools they ended up at this year.

Winbourne Elementary and Glasgow Middle received the most, 243 and 143, respectively. Winbourne is a “D” and Glasgow is a “B” school. They were among a handful of schools that Delmont and Mayfair students were forcibly reassigned to; all those schools have grades of at least a D.

The students at the remaining schools either chose to go there, graduated and consequently enrolled at new schools, were assigned for disciplinary reasons, or they moved and now attend different neighborhood schools.

A total of 136 students, or 14 percent ended up at 11 F-rated schools, many by choice, though some were assigned there for disciplinary reasons.

Three of the 77 schools are private schools.

Taylor said White is setting the wrong benchmark when he indicates that D schools aren’t good enough alternatives for displaced Delmont and Mayfair students.

“I think the bar should be is the school performing at an academically acceptable level,” Taylor said.