Magnet school admissions come under scrutiny

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 7, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / April 7, 2000

RESERVE – Students on the west bank are being short-changed when it comes to admission to the parish’s only two magnet schools, according to several St. John Parish School Board members.Board member C. J. Watkins brought up the issue of admissions policy atJohn L. Ory Magnet School at this week’s school board meeting.He said that two years ago, Teri Noel, principal of John L. Ory, was asked tocome up with an admissions policy that would allow a certain number of admission slots to be available to the children of the west bank. He says thatpolicy never materialized.

As a result, he said he knows two young people from the west bank who were not allowed to register at John L. Ory.”We need to make educational opportunities available to all students in St.

John Parish,” Watkins said. “The west bank gets shut out in the deal. It’s notfair.”Right now, John L. Ory uses a lottery system to decide who gets to enroll.Over at Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet School there is a lottery, but because ofthe U.S. Justice Department rules, Garyville also has to have a racial balance.There is no such stipulation for Ory, but the kindergarten is split 50/50 along racial lines.

Watkins suggested that the administration come up with an admissions policy that would guarantee that all students in the parish will have a chance to get into a magnet school. Either that, or the school board should think aboutbuilding a magnet school on the west bank.

John Crose was not too keen on the idea.

“It was one of your relatives that didn’t get into Ory,” Crose said to Watkins.

“And how do we make this guarantee? What is the policy?” Watkins responded, “I don’t want it taken care of right now, I want it taken care of in the future. It won’t help my grandson, but it will help others.”Watkins suggests that admission from different parts of the parish be based on population numbers. For example, if the west bank has 15 percentof the parish’s population, than 15 percent of the slots at John L. Ory shouldbe available to west bank students.

“Hopefully, we can build a specialty school on the west bank,” said Watkins.

Crose said, “Well, I would like to make sure that the Glade School gets the same treatment. Maybe we should go through the Justice Department towork this out.”School board attorney John Diasselliss said that because of the bridge we do not have a de-segregation problem.

“What we have is a transportation problem,” said Diasselliss.

And board member Leroy Mitchell told Crose, “Be careful what you wish for. Iwill not stand by and let the west bank be left out in the cold. Whatever therules are, they should be fair. You’re not going to like it when the JusticeDepartment comes back.”Watkins demanded of Superintendent Chris Donaldson, “What will the administration do? Will you, Donaldson, do it, or will you be told not to do it after the meeting?” Donaldson replied calmly, “I will take care of it.”Mitchell shook his head and said, “Every time the west bank comes up as an issue, it turns into a big discussion. I would like to see us move forward,because the bridge is not the answer. We must do something better. When astudent has to travel 30, 40 miles to school, he isn’t good for anything.”

Return To News Stories