CPSB seeks desegregation compliance officer to comply with 1970 lawsuit

Published 6:20 pm Tuesday, July 18, 2023

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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article misidentified the owner of the Concordia Parish School Board central office building. We regret the error and are happy to set the record straight.

VIDALIA, La. — Concordia Parish School District is still working to satisfy a court order issued 53 years ago in an ongoing desegregation lawsuit.

During a Thursday board meeting, the school board entered into an executive session for approximately 30 minutes to discuss “litigation strategies” before members returned to public meeting and approved a job description for a Desegregation Compliance Officer.

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Executive sessions and all discussions therein are not open to the public or to the media.

After the meeting, attorney John Blanchard of Hammonds & Sills representing Concordia Parish School Board said that the compliance officer would help the school district remain in compliance with a court order issued after the original 1970 lawsuit Smith, et. al. v. Concordia Parish School Board, et. al., Civil Action No. 65-11577.

This order demands that the Concordia Parish school district, along with Delta Charter Group, operate under the requirements of the 1970 federal desegregation order.

Each year, the school district and Delta Charter Group must compile a report of the number of students enrolled in each grade level by race, and for each district school the number of full and part-time teachers, staff and administrators by race. Additionally, Concordia Parish schools must also report the number of students transferring out of the district by race and the number of students transferring out of Ferriday schools specifically by race. Delta Charter Group must report the name, grade, race and the transferring school of each new student and report the name, title and race of Delta Charter School teachers and administrators who are hired from the district, the federal suit states.

The job description the school district approved Thursday is for a newly-created position in the parish that would be advertised to applicants, Superintendent Toyua Watson-Bachus said.

The applicant must possess educational leadership certification, according to this description.

He or she will report directly to the superintendent and carry out the following duties:

  • Participate when asked by Superintendent in negotiations with the federal court, legal counsel, and/or plaintiffs relative to possible consent orders or other types of agreements.
  • Work to ensure district-wide compliance with the federal court’s orders, including any consent order(s) that may be negotiated and approved by the federal court.
  • Conduct periodic audits across all departments and schools to ensure compliance with the federal court’s orders.
  • Report any non-compliance of the federal court’s orders to the district superintendent.
  • Compile all required reports for the federal court in a timely fashion.
  • Initiate programs and corrective action, as may be necessary, to meet the required goals of the federal court’s orders.
  • Participate in the recruitment and retention of all staff with the Director of Human Resources.
  • Initiate and work with the Directors of Curriculum to implement programs required by the federal court’s orders.
  • Function as a liaison among all departments and schools with all federal court order related issues.
  • Plan mandated professional development meetings with district administrators to address mandates of the federal court’s orders as may be necessary.
  • Present compliance data and reports to the School Board under the direction of the District Superintendent.
  • Serve as a liaison between the Superintendent and District legal counsel.
  • Make recommendations to the Superintendent and staff in relation to compliance with the federal court’s orders.
  • Perform all other tasks as directed by the Superintendent or the Concordia Parish School Board.
  • Oversee compilation and timely transmission of data requested by legal counsel, the Court, or parties to desegregation litigation.

The position and job description were approved by a vote of 8-0 with all board members present except for Matt Taunton.

In other matters during Thursday’s board meeting, the board introduced a resolution to have an election on Nov. 18 to renew an ad valorem tax that expires in 2024. The district’s business affairs director Tom O’Neal said that the tax collects nearly $2 million in revenue for the school district annually.

O’Neal also provided board members with an update on mold remediation at the district’s central office building on Carter Street. District employees and school board members were forced to vacate the building in September 2022 because of a “mold issue,” officials said. Since then, construction work has been done to remove the mold and mitigate future issues.

Meanwhile, school officials appointed a special committee to look at building a new central office. However, per the lease agreement for the building, any problems that weren’t there when the district first occupied it over 20 years ago must be fixed.

“We’ve had somewhat of a setback with our central office,” O’Neal said Thursday.

He was told the building had to remain closed earlier this month after failing inspection, he said.

“Thinking we were all clean, we had inspectors come back in the following week. The building was clean except for the restrooms at the front part of the building.”

The rebuild of the areas that are clean can resume with the exception of the area that failed inspection, O’Neal said, adding that the work may be finished in one or two months.

“But it really depends on how quickly we can get an OK on this restroom,” he added.