Teachers union official queries board on desegregation plan

A teachers union representative asked Tangipahoa Parish School Board members Tuesday to present more information about the board’s proposed modifications to its court-ordered desegregation plan.

Kevin Crovetto, president of the Tangipahoa Federation of Teachers, said he isn’t trying to micromanage the board, but was simply asking for board members to keep teachers in the loop about the new plan.

The desegregation order stems from a lawsuit filed against the Tangipahoa Parish School Board in 1965 and closed in 1980. But the desegregation issue was revived in 2007 after black community leaders raised questions about what they called a “continuation of racially segregated schools,” among other issues, according to court records.

The School Board entered into a federal desegregation plan in 2008 but has since proposed changes to it.

School system officials have proposed clustering schools and using magnet programs or other enhancements to attract students across current school district lines in an effort to desegregate without spending $54.5 million on three new elementary schools required under the current plan.

Crovetto said he has received some information from board members about the revised plan but most teachers in the system know little about it.

Crovetto asked board members to spread out and ask school system employees across the parish about their thoughts on the plan before making any final decisions.

“As stakeholders here, we need some information,” Crovetto said. “And we want that information. And we can agree to disagree, but we need some information.”

Board member Brett Duncan, an advocate of the revised desegregation plan, said during the meeting that he agreed with Crovetto.

“I don’t think we have anything to hide. I think it’s a great plan,” Duncan said. “As far as I’m concerned, we should be shouting it from the mountaintops.”

The School Board sought to present a proposal to U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle, who oversees the decades-old case. Lemelle denied the board’s request, instead directing the attorneys to first reach a consensus on any possible changes.

School system officials met with the plaintiffs’ attorneys in April to discuss the proposed modified plan.

After a lengthy executive session to discuss the desegregation lawsuit, board members announced that they will post a draft of the modified plan on the School Board’s website.

The School Board will also hold public meetings about the modified plan:

At 10 a.m. Saturday at Hammond Westside Elementary Montessori School.

At 4 p.m. Monday at Ponchatoula High School.

At 7 p.m. Monday at Loranger High School.

Duncan said he will attend all three meetings and would be willing to attend any other proposed meetings about the modifications.