Dozens show up with questions, concerns on plan that would close RPSB schools
Superintendent Jeff Powell visits Phoenix Magnet a day before vote on ‘Better Facilities’ strategic plan
RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - On Monday, March 6, Superintendent Jeff Powell visited Phoenix Magnet Elementary in an effort to clear up confusion on the Rapides Parish School Board’s ‘Better Facilities’ strategic plan. Over 200 parents, educators and staff showed up to voice their opinions on the proposal that’s set to be taken up at Tuesday’s RPSB meeting.
Superintendent Powell started off the conversation with an apology for a “failure of proper communication.” The plan, which would see the eventual closure of Phoenix Magnet Elementary, Rapides Academy, Alma Redwine Elementary and Horseshoe Drive Elementary, was released publicly less than a week ago on the meeting’s agenda, causing many involved to question the transparency.
“You don’t mess with people’s kids, and you don’t mess with their education, everybody knows that,” said Reldon Owens, a Rapides Academy parent. “I think what they’re ultimately trying to accomplish has merit and could be very good, it’s just the details are what matters and the timeframe is what matters. I think it would’ve been more advantageous and taken a lot of questions and confusion if some of these meetings would’ve happened before it appeared on a public agenda for the board meeting.”
During the gathering, Superintendent Powell answered questions ranging from the timeframe of the project to possible jobs being lost, but parents continued to circle back to a concern about RPSB’s transparency.
“He talked about a pattern of honesty and transparency, but when North Bayou closed, I think it was the same thing,” said Erica Phillips, a Phoenix Magnet parent. “Those teachers didn’t know until Facebook. There have been some board items that have been put for different schools just this last month, Mabel Brasher being one of them, the students and principal were not aware. So, I think the pattern is to kind of leave people in the dark. I really think we keep talking about redoing things, reallocating bond money, relocating, repurposing. I just think we need to rethink what we have going on.”
After the meeting, Phillips said she is still not convinced, but will look for more answers at the board meeting on Tuesday, March 7.
“We do have great teachers, we have great staff, we have great students in this parish, and they deserve better than a really hasty, not put-together plan,” said Phillips. “A bad plan, a bad proposal, is a bad proposal in five months, and it’s a bad proposal next year too.”
A substitute motion has been put forward by RPSB President Dr. Stephen Chapman. While it still eventually closes the four schools, it slows down the process for that change, not having students transferred next school year.
This will all be discussed at the March 7 school board meeting. On Monday, RPSB shared that the meeting will start as scheduled at 5 p.m., but the board will not take up the “Better Facilities” strategic plan until 6:15 p.m. to allow those who want to attend more time to get to the boardroom.
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