North Iberville High: Parents file suit to stop closure, transfer to PHS

SAVE OUR SCHOOL’ FIGHT EXPANDS...The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and North Iberville residents stage another rally at the Iberville Parish School Board office in Plaquemine Wednesday. The marchers got support last week from the Iberville Parish Council, which passed a resolution asking the School Board to find another way to educate the children besides busing them to Plaquemine High. At week’s end, a trio of parents filed suit to stop Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne Jr. and the School Board from closing the school.

Maringouin Mayor John F. Overton Sr. and two other parents filed suit Friday against the Iberville School Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne Jr. and the School Board in an effort to stop them from closing North Iberville High School and busing the children to Plaquemine.

The lawsuit is the latest measure North Iberville residents are taking to avoid the loss of the only high school in their area. Another march on the School Board office and a plea from the Iberville Parish Council preceded it.

“On information and belief, the superintendent, without providing sufficient supporting documentation, and by withholding certain information calculated to empower the board to make a more informed decision, made phone calls to individual School Board members to poll them regarding their positions on the issue of the school closure prior to the date the matter appeared on the board’s agenda for a vote, all in violation of state law,” the petition filed with the 18th Judicial District court said.

Overton, along with Ginger Fay Smith and Burnell Hill Jr., are asking the court to grant a preliminary and then a final injunction to stop the action. Baton Rouge attorney Gideon T. Carter III is representing them.

The case was assigned to District Judge Robin Free, who had not set a hearing date by presstime Tuesday, according to Clerk of Court J. G. “Bubbie” Dupont Jr.’s office.

The plaintiffs also cited “a greatly increased risk of irreparable injury and/or fatality involved in the transport of their minor children over a great distance along a dangerously configured state highway.”

They said their children would be denied a “Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) as mandated by applicable state law and equal access to system facilities, programs, services and extra-curricular activities as a result of the distance they will be required to travel from their homes.”

It was standing room only at the North Iberville High School gym Friday night for the commencement ceremonies for what might be the school’s final 28 graduates.

Earlier last week, the Iberville Parish Council joined the push to save keep the School Board from closing the North End’s only high school.

“It’s the easy thing to do, but not the right thing to do,” said Parish Councilman Matt Jewell of Maringouin, who offered the resolution.

In April, the School Board voted 8-7 for Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne Jr.’s recommendation to close the high school and send 155 students in the seventh to 10th grades to Plaquemine High School next fall. North Iberville residents have launched a recall petition against School Board Member David “Worm” Daigle of Grosse Tete, who voted for closure.

The Parish Council action came a day before the Southern Christian Leadership staged a second, smaller march on the School Board. About 50 people joined in a rally in the parking lot of the Central Office on Plaquemine Street, a fraction of the number who joined a late afternoon march on a School Board meeting.

Jewell’s resolution “respectfully requests that the Iberville Parish School Board consider all options available to allow the continued opening of North Iberville High School to help promote the future growth and development of the northern portion of Iberville Parish.”

Jewell said he got a call from a School Board member, whom he said told him to “keep my [expletive deleted] nose out of their business.”

“I’m on the Parish Council and the school is in my district,” Jewell said. “...I think the resolution was gentlemanlike. We’re trying to rebuild the north end, and we need to keep a school up there.”

Dr. Cancienne contends there is no way the school system can afford to offer all the academic and vocational classes the students need at the North Iberville campus.

“If Dr. Ed is as good as they say he is, let him get his hands dirty and fix it,” the councilman said.

Jewell told the Parish Council moving the children to Plaquemine High would mean traveling more than 60 miles a day on a school bus.

“I think it’s too much,” he said. “I think the kids are going to suffer.”

The council passed the resolution in a 10-0 vote, with three members abstaining from the ballot – Leonard “Buck” Jackson of St. Gabriel, Terry J. Bradford of Plaquemine, and Louis “Pete” Kelley Jr. of Plaquemine, husband of School Board Vice President Glyna M. Kelley.

“The citizens of the northern portion of the parish supported the School Board in its efforts to seek additional funding to provide for quality education in all parts of Iberville Parish,” the resolution said. “The Iberville Parish School System can make North Iberville High School regain its status as [an] excellent institution of secondary education by working with the parents and businesses; North Iberville High School can become a story of success for public education students.”