Future of Concordia Parish Academy in limbo

Published 12:01 am Friday, May 11, 2018


VIDALIA — The future of Concordia Parish Academy of Math, Science and Technology is now in the hands of a special committee, the school board decided Thursday.

More than 100 people gathered at Concordia Parish School Board meeting Thursday night to vouch for the Concordia Parish Academy.

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In the front rows sat more than two dozen students — most clad in the light teal blue that is emblematic of the academy — waiting to hear whether their school would close before it graduates its first senior class.

The problem facing academy administrators is twofold: Enrollment is dwindling even as the school outgrows its current facility.

The conversation surrounding the future of the academy began, Superintendent Whest Shirley said, several months ago when administrators heard the ninth- and 10th-grade enrollment had dropped to just 13 students each.

The Concordia Parish Academy of Math, Science and Technology opened its doors just five years ago.

The academy began as a kindergarten- through fifth-grade facility. With each passing year, the school has grown by a grade, and now the fifth-grade students who began in 2013 are 10th-grade students.

The goal enrollment for each class, said board president the Rev. Raymond Riley Sr., was 20 students per grade.

As the need for space for the program grew, Shirley said the school board entertained the option of building new structures to accompany the current school facility in Ridgecrest.

But with the dropping enrollment, spending more than $1 million to build onto the academy just was not feasible, Shirley said.

The decision before the board members Thursday, Shirley said, was either to move the whole program to another location or to make the academy a kindergarten through eighth-grade facility only.

After much discussion and vying for the value of the academy, board members voted unanimously to create a committee comprised of four parents, two board members and several administrators to decide what the next step would be for academy students.

Before making the decision, Riley turned and addressed the students in the room directly.

“I may not know you,” Riley said. “But I love you, and I want to ensure you have the best education possible. We want what’s best for our kids.”

In other action:

4 The school board voted unanimously to accept the resignation of board member Ronnie Bradford and fill his seat with his wife, Carolyn Braford, starting on July 1 pending approval from the Louisiana Secretary of State. Bradford’s family cited declining health as the reason for his resignation.

4 The board also voted unanimously on a motion to hire enough certified teachers to fill 75 percent of the vacant positions in Ferriday schools by Aug. 1. That vote followed a motion to institute a hiring freeze on the district administration and teachers pending the hiring of as many teachers in the Ferriday schools. The motion to institute the hiring freeze passed 4-2, with Ricky Raven and John Bostic opposing, before board member Fred Butcher amended the resolution. The amendment passed unanimously.