NAACP pickets St. James School Board over school closures

Members of the St. James Parish chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People picketed outside the parish’s School Board meeting Tuesday to protest the cancellation last week of a community meeting to discuss the future of two predominantly black elementary schools.

The School Board agreed earlier this summer to attend an NAACP-sponsored community meeting about the future of Lutcher and Fifth Ward elementary schools.

Both elementary schools had been 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 from these neighborhoods due to encroaching industry.

Many residents opposed the closures, which the School Board ultimately decided to postpone.

The future of the schools is still unclear.

The community meeting was scheduled Sept. 9, but was cancelled late Sept. 6, the Friday afternoon prior to the meeting.

School Superintendent Alonzo Luce and School Board President Charles Nailor both said during Tuesday’s meeting an NAACP representative Nailor met with that Friday demanded the School Board acquiesce to a meeting format Luce and Nailor were uncomfortable with.

Nailor also said the NAACP representative had submitted questions unrelated to the future of each elementary school that he wanted the School Board to answer during the meeting, such as questions about the parish’s federal desegregation order.

Nailor said he would not accept these terms, so the meeting was canceled.

St. James Parish NAACP President Debra Bartley, who was sitting in the audience Tuesday holding a poster reading “SJPSB cancelled but SJPSB won’t cancel us.”

“The NAACP didn’t cancel that meeting,” Bartley said. “We did not cancel the meeting.”

After the meeting, Luce addressed one concern Bartley had about a leaky roof at Lutcher Elementary.

The School Board will spend $24,000 to temporarily repair the roof, then replace the roof next summer at a cost of $812,000, he said.