Minden Press-Herald

Oct 01st

Judge gives thumbs up to school board proposal

Judge S. Maurice Hicks, Jr. has ruled in favor of the Webster Parish School Board's proposal to consolidate schools and change attendance zones.

It means that Webster Parish schools are closer to fully desegregating, 46 years after Chief Judge Dawkins declared the Federal court would continue to have jurisdiction over actions of the board until segregation was fully implemented.

The board was notified Tuesday of the judge's decision.

BUTCH_WILLIAMS"We are getting closer to a Unitarian status," Superintendent W.W. "Butch" Williams said after receiving the news. "Judge Hicks did point out areas we need to focus on, but overall this is a big step in the right direction."

Facing a deficit for the upcoming school year, the WPSB closed three schools, reconfigured many area schools and placed a freeze on teacher salaries.

During the process of making changes, the board adopted new school attendance zones that further desegregated schools. (See chart on page 3.)

"The court finds the proposal has positive effects on desegregation of the schools in the parish," the court ruling says. "The schools are currently racially diverse – approximately 42 percent black students and 57 percent white students.

"... the projections for the consolidated schools show more racial diversity," it continues. "The plan clearly furthers the goal of desegregation."

The WPSB will be under the jurisdiction of the Federal court until Unitary Status is granted.

Judge Hicks also addressed what still needs work, in order to achieve a unitary status.

"This plan goes a long way toward achieving a unitary status for Webster Parish," the ruling reads. "However, much work remains, especially in the area of minority teachers."

The ruling points out a previous court-established goal of a 64 percent white to 36 percent black teacher ratio.

The ratio is currently 80.3 percent white to 19.7 percent black teachers.

"We try to hire minority teachers," Williams said. "The pool has been low, and we have had several minority teachers retire recently, but it is something we focus on."

Administrative positions are also monitored by the court order.

Currently, the ratio of central office administrators is 73.33 percent white to 26.67 percent black, which exceeds the court order of 75 percent white to 25 percent black.

Principal positions have a ratio of 56.25 percent white to 43.75 percent black, which also exceeds the court order of 64 percent white to 36 percent black.

The ratio of assistant principals is currently 66.67 percent white to 33.33 percent black. The court order ask for 64 percent white to 34 percent black.

During the process of adopting a proposal, it was unsure how much money would be saved and there was a possibility that teachers could face lay offs.

"We are very pleased that we will not need to lose anybody," Williams said. "Only one position was eliminated and that was the Energy Manager."

The court's ruling also mentioned its approval of consolidation.

"As a result of steady decrease in students for enrollment and the economic crisis, the proposed consolidation is needed and will help make WPSB more financially stable."

The ruling also found the proposal would improve educational opportunities for all students by offering transitional classes for students who would benefit from an intense program of study rather than being held back a grade and STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) Academy that would concentrate on accelerated students.

The ruling states that more extra- circular activities would be available in north Webster Parish and notes the creation of a "Freshman Academy," which would aim at reducing the dropout rate.

Look for articles about the programs in future issues of the Minden Press-Herald.







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