Ory gets magnet school approval; 7th grades will move

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 6, 1998

By Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / April 6, 1998

RESERVE – Seventh-graders at John L. Ory Elementary will be moved nextyear to Leon Godchaux Junior High or Glade School to make way for the conversion of the once overflowing school to a magnet school.

Over a year of study made the magnet school committee come to the conclusion that it would be in the best interest of the students if seventh-graders were moved from the future magnet school, allowing more room for kindergarten through sixth-graders.

“We are bursting at the seams,” Principal Teri Noel said. “A third gradeclass is operating in the library right now.”Noel said that would be a problem next year when the books purchased for the magnet school’s library don’t have a home.

“We need to get the library up and running so we need to move the class,” Noel said. “We have bought over 1,000 books this year.”Library books aren’t the only vital thing requiring space for the type of magnet school being proposed. Noel said they need room to place a ProjectREAD teacher for the future communication arts magnet school.

With the extra room John L. Ory needs and the shift of the seventh-graderssomething about classroom space is going to have to be done. The mostlogical thing is to add trailers to some campuses.

“Glade is happy that we have been able to rid our campus of trailers,” Rod Shaft, assistant principal, said. “We had as many as 22 at one time. Wedon’t want trailers back at the school.”Shaft suggested that board members discuss redistricting the schools, but that suggestion left the table quickly.

The two proposals – to make the school a communication arts magnet and to send the seventh-graders to other schools – were packaged together, so board member Russ Wise made a motion to separate the two, which was seconded by Dowie Gendron.

C.J. Watkins made a substitute motion to consider both recommendationsat once, which Felix “Pappy” LeBouef seconded. Watkins said that with thenew magnet school atmosphere, seventh-graders would no longer be adequately educated at John L. Ory.Wendy Boldizar, president of St. John Association of Educators, askedwhere the student population at John L. Ory would come from. Noel saidthat they wanted the students who were at the school to be given the opportunity to stay and other students in the parish would fill the remaining slots according to their application.

John Diasselliss, board attorney, said if anyone gets upset over the situation he would have grounds to fight it in court.

Board member Clarence Triche said he is concerned that all of the children in the parish would not be given the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a magnet school.

“If there is going to be a magnet school we better make it a magnet school and give every child the opportunity to attend,” he said.

“Change is painful,” Superintendent Cleveland Farlough said. “Everyonewill not be pleased. But we have looked at this up, down and sideways tosee what good will be done for the most people.”Wise agreed with the magnet school concept, but because of the substitute motion he was frustrated that he had to make a decision concerning the future of 60 seventh-graders at John L. Ory in the same breath. “It’s too late to give the parents many options,” he said. “If you are goingto do away with seventh grade at a school you need to make that decision at the beginning of the year.”Since trailers will have to be added to the campus where the seventh- graders are placed, Wise wanted to know why the students have to be moved. “If we are going to have trailers someplace, why not at John L.Ory,” Wise questioned.

“Go with the magnet school,” LeBouef said adamantly. “If you vote againstit tonight, you will wind up with no magnet school at all. Please don’t cutthis thing down now; we haven’t even started.”LeBouef suggested that the problem among some board members lay with the fact that their constituents didn’t want their children to go to school with children of other races.

“If we are going to worry about black or white then we just need to stop everything,” he said. “Something is wrong when you can’t think of thekids,” he added, placing full trust in the committee that studied the conversion of John L. Ory into a communication arts magnet school and itsdecision to move the seventh-graders from the school.

“We made an educational decision – not a political decision,” Farlough said. “We’ve kicked this around and back and forth. I feel like we have todo what’s best for the children of the parish.”Board members finally voted for both proposals at once, with Matthew Ory and Triche voting against them. The other nine board members voted forthe proposals.

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