White Castle residents upset about new school system plan

Say high school set up to be closed

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 7:12pm

WHITE CASTLE, La (NBC33) -- Rival schools in Iberville Parish could be joining up under the superintendent's Redesign High Schools Plan. Some White Castle residents worry that the new curriculum could set their school up for failure.

Cynthia Woods has a 16-year-old daughter who attends White Castle High School. Her daughter is worried that she'll be forced to switch to a new school next year under a proposed plan meant to boost graduation rates. "She doesn't want to go," says Woods.

Woods is among a large number of concerned parents and residents, who aren't sure what to make of the proposed Redesign High Schools recommendation. Superintendent Ed Cancienne proposed that plan last Wednesday. The plan suggests that curriculums would be spread out to schools around the parish. That means students might have to take classes at another school depending upon what they plan to pursue when they graduate from high school.

"They're coming up with this new curriculum that's going to move the children out and close down the school," says frustrated resident, Mary Green.

The plan calls for students to choose from several different programs offered at different schools across the parish; the honors program, the basic curriculum program, the career diploma program, or a technical program. Students can also enroll in the Magnet Literacy and Math Program at White Castle High. Cancienne's reasoning for offering only some of the programs at each school is based on limited resources and funds necessary to provide all of the programs at every school in the parish.

"We have to offer all these opportunities to our children, but we can't do all of them at one place everywhere," says Cancienne.

There are concerns in White Castle that if given the choice, most students will choose Plaquemine High's honor program over the magnet program offered at White Castle. "I don't want him to give us a choice program that's going to put in place a choice to make White Castle fail, and then eventually close White Castle," says Mayor Maurice Brown.

Residents worry that taking away the best and brightest from White Castle will lower the school's test scores enough that the school will be forced to close. Some say that might have been the plan all along. "I think it's basically a plan to make everybody go to Plaquemine instead of the other schools in the parish," says former student Amber Medine. "They've beent trying to shut down White Castle High for as long as I can remember."

Residents say the parish's resources are often pushed towards Plaquemine. "Everything we've heard in years and in present is geared towards Plaquemine. Plaquemine, Plaquemine. Nothing White Castle," says Mayor Brown.

Cancienne says none of this is true. "We have faith in the town of White Castle. We have faith in the community. We have faith in the children. We just have to do a better job of giving our children the opportunities to succeed," he says. Cancienne believes the new plan will help, not hurt, White Castle High. "No one loses anything," he says. "Where ever the child's home base school is, that's where the scores go."

Still, residents are concerned that that he's not being completely honest. "They tell you one thing when they go into the meeting and before you know it, the school is closing," says Green.

Cancienne promises the changes are for the better. "There's absolutely no head fake here," he says. "I told the people it was about improving our schools. I wouldn't be having all of this conversation if it was something else."

White Castle High is coming off a huge win for the small town. Just this weekend, the football team won the state championships. Residents are still buzzing with excitement over the win, but the redesign plan puts a damper on their spirits. The Iberville Parish School Board plans to vote on the plan Monday, despite pleas from Mayor Brown to table the vote for another month while concerned parents and school leaders have a chance to compromise. The vote, however, goes forward.

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