Holmes objects to APSD principal assignments

Files letter with U.S. court as deseg case enters ‘final stage’

With the Avoyelles Parish School District in the home stretch of its race to be declared a “unitary” school system, one more hurdle has been put on the track.

Allen Holmes, the plaintiff in the desegregation case, filed a “letter of objection” to that effort with the federal court this past Friday concerning recent principal appointments he said represents a “step backward” in desegregation.

“Here we are in the final stage of the effort to gain unitary status, and then we have something like this realignment of administrators,” he said.

“Unitary” is a term indicating there is a single school system serving all students rather than two segregated systems -- called a “dual” system -- with one for white students and one for black students.

Holmes said he received a letter from the School Board last Wednesday stating it would be filing a motion “within a few days” asking the court to close the desegregation case.

“I filed my letter of objection with the court because they were going to be filing a motion with the court,” Holmes said. “My letter states my concern with the move by the superintendent to reassign principals.” Superintendent Blaine Dauzat said the School Board has not filed its motion yet, but will do so soon.

District Attorney Charles Riddle said a motion asking for that court decision “probably won’t be filed until July.”

He said he will be “seeking consent from all parties before filing the motion. If the Justice Department and the individual plaintiff, Mr. Holmes, consent, then I will file the motion ‘with consent.’ If they do not provide their consent, then I file the motion ‘without consent’ and the court sets a hearing on the matter.”

Riddle said if there are any issues to be resolved, he will be working to gain the parties’ consent prior to filing a motion.

Dauzat told board members at the June 5 meeting that “race was not a factor” in his appointment of new principals at eight of the 10 public schools.

Only three of the eight changes resulted in a principal of a different race in the front office -- Riverside, Plaucheville and Lafargue elementaries.
Riverside is a majority black school that had a white principal and will now have a black principal. Lafargue and Plaucheville are majority white schools that had black principals last year and will have white principals this coming school year.

Holmes said the assignments “harken back to pre-2008 when I thought we had resolved the issue of principals.”

Dauzat has said the issue in 2008 was that there were too few black principals, and that is no longer the case.

Holmes said his interpretation of the situation is that schools “should not be racially identifiable from the administrative level.”

In short, a predominantly white school should have a black principal, probably a white assistant and a racially mixed faculty. The reverse should be the case for a predominantly black school.

“It shouldn’t be white-on-white and black-on-black,” he said.

“Everyone knows there will be schools that are racially identifiable by student enrollment,” Holmes continued. “We can’t control that -- unless we bus children across the parish just so we can say we have a race-neutral enrollment.

“I would oppose that,” he said. “That puts the burden on the children.

“However, we can control the race of the principal at a school,” he said. “The principals get paid to do a job and they have a car. They can drive to the school they are assigned to.”

Holmes said U.S. District Judge Dee Drell will make his decision on the case in the near future.

“The judge may decide he’s had enough of it and tell the School Board, ‘Do whatever you want to do. I’m done,’” Holmes said. “I felt the responsibility to file this letter to let him know how I feel about this issue.”

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