Meeting held to discuss Westbank's low school ratings

Donaldsonville public schools were addressed in a town hall-style meeting on Monday April 10, and it cannot be by mere coincidence that testing is right around the corner.

The meeting was called by Director of the Donaldsonville Downtown Development District/ Main Street Program Lee Melancon, according to District 1 School Board Member Robin Delaney. Melancon wanted to gather information going forward because the idea is that people are not moving to Donaldsonville based on school performance.

What's certain? It is a touchy subject. Donaldsonville public schools are comprised of nearly all African American students, at least 98 percent according to Delaney. The schools perform lower than other public schools in the parish, by far.

By current school ratings, it is A versus F regarding Donaldsonville Primary and Lowery Elementary compared to Eastbank primary and elementary schools. Lowery Middle scored a D rating last year, and Donaldsonville High School scored a C. Overall, the parish public schools still carry an A rating. One concerned citizen said that Donaldsonville gets "swept under the rug."

Another concerned citizen told Superintendent David Alexander that the Westbank should declare a State of Emergency.

That might have translated to hyperbole, but no one openly disagreed. Not the Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent Denise Graves, Mayor Sullivan, nor the Donaldsonville City Council, who was also in attendance. 

The same man, Glenn Price, declared that the parents are pointing fingers at the teachers, the teachers are pointing fingers at the parents, and now it is apparent that the school board is pointing fingers at the parents and the teachers. 

Alexander began by discussing how schools get their ratings. Simple. If students all perform at basic levels but continue to move forward at basic levels together, schools get an A rating. The trouble comes when students get ahead and fall behind.

Alexander added that Louisiana superintendents and Governor Edwards are working on changing how schools get their ratings, which may become more important to this particular discussion in the future.

But for now, topics containing more relevance to this discussion appear to include adult literacy, shortage of day care programs, discipline at home and in the classroom and Ascension teachers simply not agreeing to drive across the river.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem with the discussion of how to improve these schools is apathy, judging solely on meeting attendance.

Moreover, Delaney said she has called three similar meetings. She said they put flyers in students' bags and advertise in the newspaper, but no one shows up. In fact, apart from the school board and city council, only two to three parents were in attendance, one grandmother and maybe two or three more concerned citizens.

"Where were the principles of our schools?" Price asked the following night at the regular city council meeting.

Councilman Lauthaught Delaney answered that they were not invited. 

Notably, Graves said she gets a little heated when Donaldsonville comes up because the parish tries. She said that if it was a question of money, then Donaldsonville would be performing well. Apparently, the parish feels like they put enough money into the Dville schools.

Then what is it?

"It takes a village," Graves said.

The consensus is that there is hope. For instance, the board and attendees expressed trust and gratitude for Principal Daryl Comery at Lowery Middle. The discussion is ongoing.