Sunday, October 11, 2009

A kinder gentler Attorney

The meeting of the Black Parents of Jefferson Parish Public Schools committee at Mt. Herman Baptist Church on Wednesday, October 7th at 6 pm went on despite the torrential rain that delayed its start. Mr. Gideon Carter arrived along with members of the committee, members of the Jeremiah Group, The JPPS Task Force, Pastor Terry Lewis of Providence Baptist Church, concerned parents, community leaders and attorney Mr. Alvin Chambliss. Dr. Juantina Johnson called the meeting to order and began by stating the reasons for the committee and its objective to engage Mr. Carter in a discussion with parents of particular areas that the JPPS desegregation plan and compliance office should address, where the plan is weakest and where it has been ineffective in its execution.

Mr. Carter explained his responsibility to the black parents, staff and teachers of Jefferson Parish public schools (JPPS) whom he represents along with Lena Dandridge and others in the pseudo-class action desegregation lawsuit file against JPPS in 1972. This consent order was approved by Judge Kurt Englehardt in May of 2008 in order for the JPPS system to become unitary over a 3 year planned desegregation of schools, staff, teachers, curriculum and students. Parents at the meeting were able to express to Mr. Carter specific issues with respect to student assignments, teacher assignments, discipline and performance expectations that have so far not been complaint to the court ordered desegregation. Additionally, regular monthly oversight reports are to be reviewed by himself and the superintendent and then be publicized on the JPPS website. These have not been up to day and available in a timely manner.

Mr. Carter was careful in assuring those present that the "Compliance Office" headed by Mr. James Howard was in place to address our particular concerns and provide the reports. He can be reached at 504-365-5312. Mr. Carter seemed to be genuinely disappointed with progress in this second year of the 3 year consent order but insisted that the process will take time. Unlike meetings in the past Mr. Carter conceded to many points that were made concerning the systemic resistance to changes in the school system that were due to the historical social behavior within the parish. He then pointed out that changing attitudes within the communities and parish was well beyond his legal expertise.

We applauded the patience and sympathy Mr. Carter showed in the several hours spent with us at this meeting. He appeared to note our concerns and expressed his willingness to meet again with parents in closed sessions at any of the public meetings to be announced soon by the JPPS Task Force both on the Westbank and Eastbank.

After Mr. Carter departed, Mr. Alvin Chambliss spoke to the group and injected a new and exciting perspective to the overarching objective of the consent order. Mr. Chambiss as you should read is a longstanding and dynamic advocate for education and civil rights and the combination of these two throughout the country. We hope to hear more from Mr. Chambliss in support of JPPS becoming unitary while enabling the children of the Black Parents of Jefferson Parish to have access to exceptional educational support now and to eliminate the continued disenfranchisement of the black community within the Jefferson Parish infrastructure in the future.

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