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My old grade school is a failing school

Paul Pavy Elementary class photo (Hint: I’m in the first row.)

By Paul Dauphin
A few weeks ago I happened upon a news headline that surprised me – in a negative way.
Local failing school to get vice principal, superintendent discussion delayed
The story was from the website of the Opelousas, La., Daily World. I grew up in Opelousas, so I needed to learn what school was failing in my home town. While I left the area in the early 1980’s, I knew enough about the city and parish to know the public school system faces many challenges.
However, the unpleasant surprise came upon learning the failing school is South Street Elementary. I attended South Street as a fifth grader. Back then it was known as Paul Pavy Elementary.
It was the first year of public school integration in Opelousas. It wasn’t a term yet, but my parents and two other families exercised their school choice option to enroll us at the predominantly white Paul Pavy Elementary School.
As a fifth grader, my parents didn’t know Paul Pavy’s school performance score. Schools didn’t have such measurements. Accountability as we know it today didn’t exist. But, we never thought of it as a bad school. I know my parents were very satisfied and I have great memories of my time there.
I can only speculate about what has led to the demise of South Street Elementary and the 14,000-student public school system. Factors include changing demographics, debilitating school board politics and the lack of job opportunities.
According to the school’s new principal, South Street Elementary failed evaluations for the past six years. A school board member told the Daily World the school tried to implement a different plan for every one of those six years.
If I were growing up in Opelousas today, I hope my parents would have the option to get me and my sister out of South Street Elementary, or never enroll us there.
There is evidence that St. Landry Parish parents are seeking better options. Public school enrollment has decreased over the past two years. Officials say students are leaving to attend private schools, the parish’s single charter school, as well as charter schools in a neighboring parish.
“Our numbers are decreasing because the public has lost confidence in us,” said school board member Anthony Standberry.
Clearly, parents in St. Landry Parish have had enough.


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