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    Tangipahoa Parish Schools continue to seek unitary status despite continued segregation

    HAMMOND—When Tangipahoa Parish School Board released a statement on September 26, 2019, it sent shock waves throughout the African-American community.

    The board released the following statement: “On Thursday afternoon, September 26, 2019, the Tangipahoa Parish School Board made history, adopting the recommendation of attorneys in the longstanding Joyce Marie Moore federal desegregation case and authorizing a jointly filed consent agreement in the 54-year-old case.”

    This statement prompted Nelson Taylor, the lead attorney in the case, to call a community meeting to inform the community about the case Oct. 30, at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Hammond.

    Nelson said, “This case is coming to an end, I don’t know how the judge is going to rule in this case. This case has slew of court orders.”

    Attorney Gideon Tillman Carter III wrote the final agreement for the school board. “This agreement will dismiss all litigations,” Taylor said.

    “Carter is not the lead attorney, he has no authority to write anything. Carter has disrupted my team.”

    The 34-page “Final Agreement” outlines the scope of the work that the district will continue in good faith in order to maintain a unitary school system. A school district is unitary when it has eliminated the effects of past segregation.

    Once the board achieved unitary status, they are not obligated to do anything. “It’s business as usual”, said Taylor, “The board doesn’t need unitary status to remove all those portable buildings they can do that now.

    The powers-that-be has their hands on this school board. One white board member had the nerve to go on television and say they will not vote for a tax for the board if the board is under court order to do things for Blacks”. Tangipahoa Parish has the lowest tax for schools than any other parish in the state.

    “If you want good schools, you must have a good tax base. There is something the African American community can do. Have a community meeting, discuss and plan what you want in your schools and where those schools should be located,” said Taylor, “The African American community did not create a dual system of education in this parish.” The board should build high schools in central locations like Ponchatoula and Hammond High with the same curriculum. The board is building schools around subdivisions.

    “The parish has two African American board members, they should have three and maybe four. You should check the parish demographics.”

    Former president of The Greater Tangipahoa Parish NAACP Pat Morris said, “No one wants this case settled more than I do. But it must be done the right way, according to Amendment 14. Equality for everyone. This case is about African American children and their parents.” Taylor asked for the African American community to show up in Federal Court in record numbers on November 20, 2019.ℜ

    By Eddie Ponds
    Ther Drum Founding Publisher

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    Changes coming for 5 Hammond, Independence schools

    A revised student assignment plan is expected to go into effect for students in the Hammond and Independence schools, just in time for the start of the 2018-19 school year.

    The Tangipahoa Parish School Board on Wednesday filed a joint motion with plaintiff’s counsel, at the recommendation of Court Compliance Officer Donald Massey, in the longstanding Joyce Marie Moore federal desegregation lawsuit to modify the student assignment plan which went into effect with the start of the 2016-17 school year. Although the federal court document system does not indicate any judicial action has been recorded beyond the filing of the motion, the school system appears to be preparing a “Plan A” and “Plan B” for the five schools that will be impacted by these changes, which will start this August.

    Proposed to “address and resolve certain issues in the Hammond attendance zone,” the newly-modified student assignment plan will also “combine” the current Independence Magnet and Independence Leadership Academy school zones into a single attendance zone, reinstating the traditional grade configurations at those schools. Independence Leadership Academy would house pre-K through 4th grade students while Independence Magnet will enroll students in grades 5-8. The modified plan would allow Independence Magnet to remain a communications magnet school.

    If the newest version of the modified plan is approved by Judge Ivan Lemelle, there would be significantly more changes in store for three Hammond schools (Woodland Park Magnet, Greenville Park Leadership Academy, and Hammond Eastside Magnet) starting this upcoming 2018-19 school year:

    *New principals would be assigned at the Greenville Park and Woodland Park schools. By federal court order, those principals would likely be laterally-transferred from other TPSS schools or from the Central Office itself, and the individuals selected would be required to hold proper administration certificates, have previous experience as school principals, and “have a proven record of effectiveness in all areas of school administration.” The new appointees will be compensated according to the district salary schedule but granted a $10,000 annual stipend above and beyond their compensation package to be paid “semi-annually for as long as the principal remains at GPLA or WPM.”

    *Woodland Park and Greenville Park will change their grade configurations. For the 2018-19 school year, Greenville Park will remain a pre-K to 8th grade campus, but Woodland Park will serve students in grades pre-K to 6 only. 7th and 8th grade students who were previously assigned to the Woodland Park zone will automatically transfer to Hammond Eastside for the upcoming school year.

    *School choice transfers will be offered for Woodland Park 7th and 8th graders who do not want to go to Hammond Eastside. Woodland Park parents who do not want to send their 7th or 8th grader to Hammond Eastside will be able to utilize a “school choice transfer” to send their students to Greenville Park, but they must file a transfer application before July 19, 2018, to make that happen. Any Woodland Park 7th or 8th grade student who does not have a school option transfer application on file by July 19 will be sent to Hammond Eastside for the 2018-19 school year.

    *Reconstituted faculties: In 2018-19, the new leadership teams at Woodland Park and Greenville Park will “be given the opportunity to select their administrative teams and will be allowed first pick in filling any uncertified positions with certified teachers who wish to transfer from other schools or from the list of newly certified teacher applicants.” The faculty and leadership teams at these two schools will receive a $3,000 stipend on top of their compensation package, and that stipend will remain in effect, paid semi-annually, for as long as those teachers remain at the schools.

    *Woodland Park and Greenville Park will remain magnet schools, but the schools will receive additional funding for student activities. Woodland Park continues as a communications magnet school and Greenville Park will remain a STEM school. Greenville Park will continue to implement Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) with the current payout formula remaining in place.The district will offer additional instructional resources for both schools, including an extra $25,000 added to their school activity funds for this year and an additional $15,000 for school activity funds in future years.

    *Other enhancements for 2018-19 school year:
    -Greenville Park and Woodland Park will also begin offering Spanish effective this upcoming school year and will continue to do so moving forward.
    -Greenville Park will also receive support from the district’s science resource teacher at least once a week to work with science teachers and their STEM specialist to improve the school’s implementation of STEM.
    -Starting in October, 2018, Central Office staff will begin meeting monthly with the leadership of Woodland Park and Greenville Park to discuss progress at their schools, address additional resources that may be necessary, and to tweak any potential modifications to the student assignment plan that may be included for the 2019-2020 school year.

    *Priority admissions: With regard to early childhood education, African American students from the Woodland Park attendance zone and specifically students in the Magazine Street, M.C. Moore Street, and Martin Luther King Street areas of Hammond will also be given priority admission for up to one-third of the total early childhood program enrollment in Hammond Eastside’s pre-K program. The court order specifies “pre-K classes at Hammond Eastside Magnet School shall be racially diverse.”

    Moving into 2019-2020, the plan calls for even greater improvements in the Hammond school district:
    *Reconstituted schools: In 2019-20, Woodland Park and Greenville Park students will be assigned to the same school zone. Students in grades pre-K to 3 will attend Woodland Park while students in grades 4-8 will attend Greenville Park. Woodland Park 7th students who transferred to Hammond Eastside for 2018-19 will have the option to remain at Hammond Eastside for their 8th grade year or transfer to Greenville Park.

    In addition to these changes at the five elementary schools, the modified plan calls for enhanced professional development for all teachers, and that training will offer emphasis on cultural diversity and equity. The first phase of professional development will be completed before May 1, 2019, with follow-up and ongoing professional development offered to all system employees. Phase two will include all teachers and support staff, with a goal of completing that training no later than December of 2019. At that point, cultural diversity training and equity training will be offered annually to all TPSS employees.

    Action 17 News

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