ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - With the continued failure of some schools in Rapides Parish, Superintendent Tony Authement proposed some new ideas to the school board at a retreat back in January 2016. Tuesday, the Superintendent let the public hear that plan for the first time.
Authement’s proposal includes closing Alma Redwine and Carter C. Raymond, merging Alexandria Middle Magnet with Bolton High School and Arthur F. Smith with Peabody High, and merging D.F. Huddle with Julius Patrick.
Authement said that over the past four years $12 million extra dollars have been given toward "turn-around” efforts that included changing out principals, changing more than 50 percent of the teachers in some schools, providing incentive pay and pay for performance and more. These efforts seemed to work in some schools, but Authement explained that research shows there is ‘no cure all for failing schools.’
Another issue within the district is a shortage of teachers. Closing and merging schools would help solve this struggle because the district would require fewer teachers.
"Because we don't have fully certified teachers and because we have so many long-term-substitute teachers in our classrooms, it has impacted the quality of instruction in our classrooms," said Authement.
Although this meeting was not open to comment, a large crowd was present to show a united front largely against the proposal.
Kristen Mikulas, the parent of a Bolton high-schooler, said she has concerns about merging students as young as 11 and as old as 20 into the same building.
"He mentioned that having these students in the right environment and the correct environments is one of the things that they want to really look at,” said Mikulas. “Putting middle schools in high school environments, that's just not an appropriate move, at least in our opinion."
Bolton parents brought a petition against the proposal that included 401 signatures. Many included comments next to their signatures.
"People who aren't even affiliated with Bolton can see the history,” said Mikulas. “They can see the academics, they can see the environment and how this would change it for everyone."
Before the public is invited to make spoken comments, the board may consider making changes to the proposal.
"It is a cafeteria plan,” said Authement. “They pick and choose which of the recommendations they think warrant further consideration, if any."
Authement said the kids in failing schools need urgent change, and he hopes that some of the changes outlined in his proposal will begin to be implemented by next school year.
"Especially in regard to Alma Redwine,” said Authement. “We've got to do something different than we've been doing."
The timing of this proposal is another complaint that parents have. If they were considering open enrollment, parents had to decide where to send their child by March 10. School merging will play a part in many families’ decisions.
Parents and teachers will have an opportunity to speak at another public meeting that will take place at a larger venue and include a vote. Authement challenged the crowd to do their research and come prepared to make their own proposal.
"If someone has a better idea than what we've presented this evening, then were open,” said Authement. “We welcome those ideas."