Pointe Coupee board okays consolidation proposal

The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board approved a move Thursday to transfer students from the underperforming Pointe Coupee Central High School to Livonia High effective this fall, provoking an outcry from parents of students attending PC Central.

The board’s action came as it approved a proposed order from the state’s Recovery School District asking a federal court judge to return jurisdiction of PC Central High back to the parish school system effective in the 2014-15 school year.

Parish residents packed the School Board’s meeting chambers and lined the halls outside as they tried to persuade the board to reject the RSD’s recommendation to have the students absorbed into Livonia High’s student population in the fall.

RSD officials and the School Board’s attorney met privately with U.S. District Judge James J. Brady last week on RSD’s motions to hand over day-to-day oversight of PC Central back to the School Board, but Brady asked the parties to clean up some language in the transfer agreements.

Bob Hammonds, the board’s attorney, told audience members Thursday night that the RSD’s proposed order mirrored their original motions but added language asking that the School Board, within six months, present to the court a student assignment plan for a consolidation that would make Livonia High the parish’s lone public high school.

The School Board approved the proposed order in a 6-2 vote.

Board members Frank Aguillard, Les Ann Grezaffi, Brandon Bergeron, James Cline, Kevin Hotard and Anita LeJeune voted in favor. Thomas Nelson and Chad Aguillard opposed the proposal.

Chad Aguillard made an impassioned plea that the board consider keeping PC Central open so that it could serve as the parishwide high school for the 2014-15 term.

Aguillard argued Livonia High’s campus was incapable of handling the influx of students a consolidation would entail. His comments also touched on arguments by residents that Brady is catering to the white population in Pointe Coupee Parish that refuses to relocate its children to PC Central High.

“You’d have the same teachers, same students; they’ll just be attending school a little bit further south,” he said. “What is it about that building that we can’t come together? It’s people that make schools, not buildings. I want my position to be clear: I felt that Pointe Coupee Central, or that facility, was built to house all the high school-aged kids in the parish and it should be utilized for that purpose.”

After 30 minutes of public comment — all of which opposed the student transfer to Livonia — Hotard said the public’s arguments to keep PC Central open were premature.

“We have six months to work out the argument of what’s going to go where,” Hotard said. “First thing we need to do is get control of the school back.”

Pointe Coupee Central High was transferred to the RSD in 2008 after years of struggling to keep up with the state’s academic performance requirements.

The school opened as a charter school in summer 2008 under the management of Advance Baton Rouge, a nonprofit organization.

At the time, 549 students attended the school.

But after only one year under Advance Baton Rouge’s operation, Central High’s standardized test scores took a nosedive along with reports of disorderedly conduct among the students, declining enrollment and several administrative changes.

Within the past five years, Livonia High has raised its letter grade from a D to a C.

In 2013, Pointe Coupee Central High received an F from the state.

As of Oct. 1, some 185 students, in grades eight through 12, were enrolled at Central High, all of whom are black and who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.