In a letter to Lafayette school Superintendent Burnell Lemoine, 100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette, a group comprising area business and civic leaders, takes a strong position against converting N.P. Moss Middle School into a technical career high school. A Baton Rouge Planning firm contracted to help the parish devise a comprehensive facilities master plan has recommended the Moss conversion.
In a Monday letter to Lemoine, 100BMGL President Melvin Caesar writes that the group “strongly opposes the CSRS recommendation to convert N.P. Moss Middle School to a career tech high school and calls upon the Lafayette Parish School Board (LPSB) to reject it. We oppose the CSRS recommendation for the following reasons:
● Restructuring N.P. Moss Middle School into a career and technical high school is not in the best interest of the students who attend Moss.
● Cultivating N.P. Moss Middle School as a neighborhood middle school is in the best interest of the students. Even though N.P. Moss Middle School has a long history of underperformance, closing the school is not the solution. Developing, funding and properly executing appropriate comprehensive turnaround strategies involving LPSB and the N.P. Moss Middle School community is the right solution. This responsibility originates with LPSB and extends to the community and parents. All must work in close partnership around a coordinated plan of action to elevate N.P. Moss Middle School to high performance.
● The CSRS recommendation would destroy the concept of a neighborhood school for those families currently zoned to attend N.P. Moss Middle School. We believe
keeping N.P. Moss Middle as a neighborhood school affords better opportunities to affect the students, their families and communities using effective turnaround strategies. We understand that the school is currently below capacity. We believe the students who do not attend, who are currently zoned for N.P. Moss Middle School, will return in large numbers when N.P. Moss Middle School becomes a high performing school as a result of effective turnaround strategies that are well coordinated within and between LPSB and the community.
● The proposed N.P. Moss career and technical high school will have a negative impact on Northside High School.
● The funds needed to restructure N.P. Moss Middle School as a career and technical high school would be better spent providing the resources needed to transform N.P. Moss Middle School into a high performing middle school in which we all can take pride.
● Shipping N.P. Moss Middle School students to other schools will not necessarily translate to higher performance. LPSB already faces significant challenges throughout the parish in closing large achievement gaps by race and income. These gaps exist at every school including the middle schools where LPSB would bus the N.P. Moss Middle School students.
The group also questions the timing of converting Moss — a tentative opening for the career-tech high school is next fall — arguing that more time should be devoted to studying the issue and to closing the performance gap between white and black students. “The achievement gaps by race and income are significant,” Caesar writes, closing the letter with an offer:
The 100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette is asking LPSB to establish a partnership for the purpose of initiating a Save Our Children Campaign to transform N.P. Moss Middle School into a high performing middle school. Our offer includes a commitment to be the catalyst to engage the community stakeholders that are required in a comprehensive turnaround plan.
The group seeks a 30-point increase in performance scores at four under-achieving north Lafayette public schools — all of them predominately African-American — by 2014: J.W. Faulk Elementary from 64 to 94; Alice Boucher Elementary from 61 to 91; Moss from 58 to 88; and Northside High from 67 to 97. The group also wants to increase NHS’ graduation rate from 56 percent to 80 percent in the same time period.
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