Greg Davis has resigned as chairman of the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council. The Cajundome director and civic activist made the announcement at a closed LaPESC board meeting Monday. UL Lafayette professor Eddie Palmer, who was LaPESC's vice chairman, has now taken over as chair of the organization. Davis says his decision came after the recent announcement from the Lafayette Parish School System to withdraw its membership from LaPESC over concerns that the organization planned to take an active a role in school board elections.
In his role with the 100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette and as a former chairman of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, Davis has been a public education gadfly often at odds with the LPSS. He recently helped lead a charge of protests over a proposal before the school board to convert N.P. Moss Middle School into a career and technical high school. (The board voted to keep Moss as a middle school last night.)
"I thought," Davis said yesterday, "that my 10-year relationship with the school system is one that has been strained, one that has involved tension, as it is right now, in this issue involving N.P. Moss Middle School. And I just felt personally that with myself as chair of LaPESC that that would be an impediment to the Lafayette Parish School System coming back and rejoining LaPESC and so I made a personal decision to step aside for that reason." Davis remains a member of LaPESC. "I'm going to be active," he says. "I'm going to attend meetings. I'm very, very interested in the work of LaPESC and I'm hoping that we can win the school system back into the organization and begin to look at this underachievement among children of poverty and hopefully turn that around over time."
LaPESC was formed last year with representatives of several community organizations, including the United Way of Acadiana, the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, 100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette, UL Lafayette and the Lafayette Parish School System. The group's stated mission is to close the achievement gap among children of poverty and reduce the public school system's drop-out rate. Davis had taken the lead in developing a proposed program of work for the organization, which included hosting candidate forums for the upcoming school board elections and following up with report cards to hold school board members accountable to their pledges. Davis and local attorney Gary McGoffin, another LaPESC member, discussed those plans in an article in The Daily Advertiser, prompting LPSS' withdrawal from the organization. "Maybe I jumped the gun a little bit," Davis says, noting that LaPESC has yet to formally adopt any program of work. "The article made it come across as though that program of work had already been approved and it was not. The organization has not decided what the program of work is, therefore it's an open question as to whether LaPESC would have anything to do with candidate forums." (The group's bylaws state it cannot endorse candidates.)
Palmer, dean of the UL graduate school, acknowledges that it appears unlikely that the school system will rejoin LaPESC . However, he adds that Lafayette Parish School Board President Carl LaCombe and veteran member Mike Hefner have agreed to attend at least one LaPESC meeting to discuss issues in the school system. "We still want to stay connected to the issues that caused our formation," Palmer says, "so we're going be interacting with the Lafayette Parish School Board and school staff in some ways."
"Our scope of work is still being debated," he adds, "and still something that we're going to come to but really what we want to do is try to eliminate the achievement gap for children living in poverty and ensure that students graduate from high school on time. So, those are the kind of things that got us together to begin with and we benefited from the Lafayette Parish School System being at the table for the seven or eight months that we used to formulate our bylaws and come up with our mission, so we are always holding out the invitation for the Lafayette Parish School System to come back to the table."