St. James woman says top academic ranking denied to daughter

A St. James Parish mother told the School Board her daughter lost her ranking as the No. 1 academic in her graduating class because of a policy error that gave the title to the superintendent’s daughter instead.

Rhonda Zeringue appealed to the School Board on Tuesday night on behalf of her daughter Kassidy Zeringue, 18, who attended Lutcher High School.

Kassidy Zeringue should have received honors as the school’s top student, Rhonda Zeringue asserted, because Lauren Luce, daughter of St. James Parish School Superintendent Alonzo Luce, is only 16.

According to the parish school system’s accelerated student policy, Lauren Luce should not have been allowed to walk in Lutcher High’s graduation ceremony until she turned 17.

Lauren Luce did attend the graduation ceremony this spring, however.

“Because of who she is, she does get preferential treatment,” Rhonda Zeringue said, referring to Lauren Luce.

Rhonda Zeringue also said “it was a secret to the end” that Lauren Luce had filled out paperwork to graduate.

Luce said his daughter graduated in three years with a 4.4 grade-point average.

Rhonda Zeringue said she was told by a school administrator that the policy in question had been changed in the school system’s Pupil Progression Plan and that several other students younger than 17 have been allowed to walk in graduation ceremonies.

School Board President Charles Nailor admitted there had been an “oversight” in not removing the old policy from the Pupil Progression Plan.

Foret promised to investigate the matter.

Luce said after the School Board meeting, “There was no preferential treatment.”

Other business coming before the board included:

FIFTH WARD: Parish residents Clyde Cooper and Calvin Le-Beouf asked the School Board to reconsider closing one wing at Fifth Ward Elementary School in St. James.

LeBeouf said that closing an entire wing at Fifth Ward would be the “beginning of the end” and encouraged Luce to keep the school open three years to see if enrollment numbers would decrease as projected by a consulting firm hired by the School Board to develop a master plan on school growth and development.

Luce said there are only 164 students enrolled for the 2013-14 school year, down from 182 students the previous year, and that it would be easier for teachers to manage students in one section of the school.