Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Board approves latest talks; could deseg breakthrough be close?

Board approves latest talks; could deseg breakthrough be close?
Posted: Feb 10, 2019
Categories: Front Page, Headlines
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AMITE—Tangipahoa Parish School Superintendent Melissa Stilley is very optimistic that a Board-authorized change in their legal strategy will result in a breakthrough in the more than half-century-old federal desegregation lawsuit.

Stilley praised the Tangipahoa Parish School Board who authorized attorneys Ashley Sandage and Charles Patin to negotiate with the plaintiffs to develop a Post Unitary Status Plan that will ultimately be submitted to the federal court for final approval.

“This is an amazingly proactive approach, designed to utilize our attorneys’ expertise with a single goal of bringing closure to this more than 50-year-old case,” Stilley said.

Stilley described the strategy as an effort to move the case along faster and save money in legal fees. Stilley is especially encouraged and thankful that the plaintiff’s counsel is equally willing to engage in these talks.

“I’m optimistic. Our Board is optimistic, and we are excited to have this opportunity to work together and enter into these discussions,” Stilley said. “I think everyone is very hopeful and willing to engage in these talks with a spirit of resolution after all these years."

Sandage and Patin have worked on the case since it was reactivated in 2007. Patin retired in 2012, but during his tenure on the case, the district gained full unitary status in two of the so-called six “Green Factor” standards which determine if a district is granted unitary status by the federal courts. Currently the district has achieved unitary status in extra-curricular activities and transportation while facilities and staff assignment were granted provisional unitary status. Teacher and student assignment are the only two areas remaining before full unitary status could be granted.

“We feel that Patin's and Sandage’s knowledge of the desegregation case and their experience make them the ideal team to help bring closure to this case. In addition, Mr. Patin is one of a very select group of Louisiana attorneys who have successfully resolved desegregation cases by negotiating a post-unitary plan,” the superintendent said.

Stilley added, “Everyone agrees. It’s time to move this case forward. We can only accomplish this by sitting down with the plaintiffs and talking through what we need to do to resolve the case. Now is the time to engage in proactive conversations that will bring us together once and for all.”