Negotiations between both sides in the desegregation case are due to Judge Ivan Lemelle on Aug. 8.
The compromise plan will keep the Board’s proposal to implement magnet, Montessori, and IB schools at nine of its lowest performing sites. Accelerated programming will be made parishwide, and the system will continue to offer its alternative school, currently housed in Hammond at Crystal Street.
The plan does not provide for employee raises, as was previously discussed. The proposal also fails to provide for new art and music education classes in schools across the parish.
The board will consider the plan before it is sent to Lemelle for approval.
Court records indicate Lemelle will not hold the Board or School Superintendent Mark Kolwe in contempt of court, as was previously sought by plaintiff’s attorney; however, the minutes reflect that Lemelle will be taking a harsh stand on any future “violations of Court Orders,” including a $5,000 fine for contempt on each violation and sanctions of $1,000 per day “for each day the violation exists until full compliance with Court Orders and procedures is achieved.”
The court also required the proposal to establish a process by which the court-appointed officers in this case may level objections to issues of disagreement among the parties.
Earlier this spring, the parish’s Court Compliance Officer Arlene Guerin said in public session that she had waited to object to a particular hiring practice of the school system until after the April elections.
Guerin indicated that she had spoken with counsel about the objection and alleged she was asked to hold her tongue until after the tax propositions went to the public.
According to the minute report of Friday’s hearing, future such disagreements “shall be reported to the Court within a period of time and process noted in the proposed order, specifying nature of disagreement, efforts to resolve the same and why efforts failed, among other things.”
The compromise will also “provide a process and time frame for the (School Board) to establish internal criteria regarding the role and duties of the Chief Desegregation Implementation Officer (Lynell Higgenbotham), specifically addressing among other things matters raised during (Friday’s) conference.”
Once the compromise agreement is approved by the Court, the district begins a timeline to reach unitary status. Observers estimate the process could take as few as three and as many as four or five years, depending on how quickly the parish can begin construction on the four new elementary schools.
The parish cannot leave the federal court’s control until the four schools are built and occupied, and until at least one year has passed after the new attendance lines are implemented.