Darlene Ourso won’t seek reelection to Iberville Parish School Board

Staff Report

Darlene Ourso has served nearly two decades on the Iberville Parish School Board, but she said it’s time to move past her time on the dais.

The parishwide board member did not qualify for another term in office, which has set the stage for a race between board member Polly Higdon and opponent John Morgan in Nov. 8 election.

It was a tough decision for Ourso, whose term will end a 20-year run for the board member from White Castle.

Darlene Ourso

“I gave it my all, and I made good decisions, and I’ve been pleased with what I’ve been able to accomplish,” said Ourso, who has spent her career as an educator and coach. “I’m a little disappointed at things that passed us by because of politics, and it can be frustrating when our test scores aren’t where they need to be.”

The politics have had far-reaching effect on the Iberville Parish School System, Ourso said.

She said it has been one of the biggest issues holding back Iberville schools.

“The superintendent has all the power, and the school board has no other power other than to make policies and procedures,” Ourso said. “However, the superintendent is hired by the sitting board, and he must keep the board happy.

“When we have sitting employees aren’t doing their job and are connected to school board members, it makes it very tough for the superintendent to do his job, whether it’s a teacher or administrator or whomever the case may be,” she said. “It's really a shame … I’ve been on the board, and I’ve been through five superintendents and maybe five CFOs.”

Ourso said her decision has disappointed many constituents

The days on the School Board may be ending, but she said it will not mark an end to her involvement with Iberville Parish public schools.

“My whole family was brought up in the public school system, I taught in the public school system, and I’ve represented the public school system,” Ourso said. “I believe in it, and I will be paying attention to it from a distance.”

She plans to remain an active voice, even as she leaves the board.

The issues in the school system need to be kept in the public eye, she said.

Despite her frustrations, she sees plenty of potential for the system.

“Is our system perfect? No,” she said.  “Is it workable? Absolutely.”

Ourso believes the board is far closer to equity than it was when she was first elected.

Much of the change in the School Board stems from the reduction in size from 15 members to nine – eight district members and one parishwide member. The move, which was approved by voters, took effect in 2014.

The board’s focus was tilted heavily toward Plaquemine in that area, she said.

The inequity led to the closure of North Iberville High School in 2009, she said.

Ourso said the reopening of the school was a step in the right direction.

“They should never have closed it,” she said. “That was a gross mismanagement of money … we spent $250,000 to resurface a track, and then they closed the school.

“We’re too big of a parish to talk about closing them,” she said. “We need to put money in our schools and make them thrive by getting the best quality of the teachers.”

Until the end of the term, Ourso said it will be business as usual for her on the School Board.

She said she will not miss the campaigning, but it will not end her involvement in issues pertaining to public schools.

“I may not be on the board, but I can still help get things done,” she said. “You can take me away from the School Board, but you can’t take me away from public service.”