NEW ORLEANS—After almost 55 years, the Tangipahoa Parish School System in cooperation with plaintiff’s negotiation counsel reached a judicially-approved mutual agreement in the longstanding Joyce Marie Moore federal desegregation case.
On Tuesday, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Ivan Lemelle approved the mutual consent agreement. He has asked for slight modifications which will be submitted to the court within the next 30 days.
Tangipahoa Parish School Superintendent Melissa Stilley called the ruling a “historic” opportunity and “a win for all children in Tangipahoa Parish. “
Joined by several Tangipahoa Parish School Board members for Tuesday’s hearing, Stilley said Judge Lemelle indicated there is “clear and convincing evidence” that the system is in compliance with orders of the court regarding six areas of operations: extra-curricular activities, transportation, physical facilities, faculty assignment, staff assignment, and student assignment. These areas, known as “green factors” in the case are gauged independent of each other and collectively to determine if there are opportunities for racial discrimination within the operations of the school system.
Stilley said Lemelle also indicated that the district has shown a good faith effort to comply with the federal court’s orders.
In addition to looking at the district’s performance on key areas of operations, the court found the district to be faithfully working ahead with a strategic plan for how schools will operate and grow in the future.
“We will continue to focus on our strategic plan to move our district forward,” Stilley said.
The superintendent offered her appreciation to attorneys for both sides who have come together to work faithfully over the last year to resolve the case and unify the district.
“We want to commend the efforts of the plaintiff’s settlement counsel Gideon Carter and the School System’s negotiation attorney Ashley Bass for their extraordinary efforts to put a mutual agreement together that benefits all children. Both Carter and Bass went through our public school system growing up, and their investment in our public schools has created a passion for building a stronger Tangipahoa Parish.”
Tangipahoa Parish President Robby Miller said, "What a GREAT day for our public school system and our parish as a whole! Congratulations to our Superintendent, the School Board, and most importantly to our children. They are the true winners today. May their futures be brighter by the actions of our community leaders today."
The agreement outlines the scope of the work the district will continue in good faith to maintain a unitary school system. The document addresses the issues of student assignment, truancy, discipline, school culture, staffing, teacher assignment, facilities, and the ongoing role of the Court Compliance Officer, the role of the Chief Equity Officer, as well as plans for a fairness hearing and plaintiff’s rights going forward into this process.
“It is the desire of the Tangipahoa Parish School Board to not merely promise our continued operation of an equitable system, but to demonstrate our ability and commitment to such operations through the implementation of each and every element” of the agreement, the Board has indicated repeatedly over the course of this process.
Details on the agreement are posted on the district website at www.TangiSchools.org.