A proposed settlement to the 45-year-old school desegregation case in the parish will conclude formal court oversight of the system, though the board could end up back there if agreements are not followed.
Judge Tucker Melancon is expected to sign the settlement shortly, granting unitary status to a system which as struggled at times to satisfy dictates of the court.
As recently as five years ago, Melancon predicted the feds would be out of the system’s hair within a year, but that didn’t work out as some recalcitrant members sent the judge to edge of running the system himself.
Now he’s happy, the plaintiffs are happy and the board is happy.
Supeintendent Michael Nassif called Thursday’s hearing a historic day for the parish.
The board’s task now is to adhere to remaining agreements that ensure a desegregated school system - classrooms, faculty, staff, central office, the whole works - and bolstering a science magnet program at majority black Opelousas High.
The heavy lifting in the litigation’s final months was the unpopular reorganizing of attendance zones in 2009 to attain racial balance in student populations.
Also included in the settlement is continuing monitoring of the attendance zones, diligent recruiting of minority employees and maintaining the Magnet Academy for Cultural Arts at the Alternative Transition School.
It will be paramount for the board to avoid any perception of violation of the letter or the spirit of the settlement as it moves forward with expected operating budget cuts this year.
The parish, like every other public school system in the state, is facing dramatic cuts in state and federal funding, cuts that require spending choices in the local systems.
The St. Landry Board held a financial study retreat in February as a first step in that process.