OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry School Board voted Thursday to keep open until at least May an Opelousas elementary school the state has declared to be academically unacceptable for four consecutive years.
District school officials, parents and board members discussed the problems confronting Creswell Elementary for nearly two hours before the board voted 7-4 against closing the school and sending the 215 students now enrolled there to other parish campuses.
Most parents who spoke said they were against moving their children to other campuses less than a month after school started.
Interim superintendent Joseph Cassimere before the board’s vote recommended making Creswell a virtual academy school that blends a home school plan with the option of students attending regular classes.
School improvement facilitator Angela Cassimere told the board in a presentation before the vote that Creswell’s declining test scores have made the school eligible to be included in the state’s recovery district plan.
Angela Cassimere is married to school board member Raymond Cassimere. Raymond and Joseph Cassimere are brothers.
The school’s eligibility for the state’s recovery district plan means the State Department of Education could take over Creswell, which is located less than 200 yards from the district’s administrative office, Angela Cassimere said. The state could convert it to a charter school or virtual school campus, possibly run by administrators unconnected to St. Landry’s school district, she said.
Angela Cassimere said the Opelousas area district is an obvious target of state school officials since North Elementary, Opelousas Junior High, Southwest Elementary and South Street Elementary located inside the city, had state performance test scores that gave the schools grades of “F” for the 2011-12 session.
Data presented to the School Board show that scores for Creswell, which includes students from kindergarten through sixth grade, have plummeted steadily since 2003-04, when the school scored a 79.5.
This past year, Creswell received a failing score of 54.6 and Cassimere said she doubted that the scores at the end of this year would show much improvement.
School officials at the meeting said nearly all of Creswell’s students come from low-income households and that administrative turnover has been high, with five principals in as many years.
Creswell Principal Kay Victorian told the board that the parents of students who attend Creswell feel that their children should be allowed to finish the school year at the school before any changes are made.
“Don’t play with their lives a month at a time,” Victorian said.
Voting to keep Creswell open were Anthony Standberry, Charles Ross, John Miller, Huey Wyble, Quincy Richard, Roger Young and Josie Frank.
Those voting no were Raymond Cassimere, Candace Gerace, Harry Fruge and board president Kyle Boss.
Ronald Carriere did not attend the meeting.
In other business, the names of five applicants for superintendent were announced at the start of the meeting.
The applicants include Joseph Cassimere, Port Barre High Principal William Duplechain, and supervisor of child welfare Edward Brown. Also seeking the position are Stephensville Elementary principal Daniel Rawls and Lafourche Parish supervisor of special education Charles Michel.
The board set a Sept. 8 meeting date to interview candidates beginning at 4 p.m., with the selection to be made Sept. 26.
The district has been without a superintendent since November, when Michael Nassif resigned.