Upset Lopez Elementary parents turn to Biloxi Council for help

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - "I wanted my son to have the best: The best at life. The best education," said Angela Lusk.

Lusk talked about her disabled son, who has improved so much at Lopez Elementary, he is now an honor roll student.

"Now the school board wants to close Lopez as an elementary school and send a majority of these students to the lowest ranked school in the entire school district -- a level 3. This makes no sense," said Lusk.

On Tuesday, Lusk and about a dozen other Lopez parents urged Biloxi Council members to step in. The parents say Biloxi's School Superintendent Dr. Paul Tisdale has turned down their requests for answers.

"The school board will not meet with us about giving us information to questions that we've asked," said Pamela Sharplin, a Lopez Elementary parent.

Questions like: Why did Tisdale recommend repurposing Gorenflo Elementary, then weeks later, suggest closing Lopez instead?

"Just because a building is dated does not mean that the education of our students will suffer," said Kristi Ellis, a Lopez Elementary parent.

"Try explaining to your 8-year-old daughter that's been through what she's been through the last three years that we're closing your school down because of something as ugly as political agenda or outside pressures," said Boyd Graafmeyer, a Lopez Elementary parent.

"I want to know who can help me," said another frustrated parent, Cathy Broussard. She then turned to the mayor and asked "Can you help me with this?"

The council president gave the parents a response they did not want to hear.

"The Biloxi City Council and the mayor have no jurisdiction over the schools whatsoever, other than appointing the board members," said Councilman Bill Stallworth.

"It's very discouraging to hear that. They do appoint the school board," said Lusk. "However, the fight is not over. We're going to continue our fight all the way up to Jackson if we have to."

Concerning re-purposing Lopez, Tisdale told WLOX News: "It was not an easy decision for the board to make. The board members have considered a lot of data, they toured the schools, and they have been listening to citizens' comments since January of last year."

And regarding the parents' requests for a meeting, Tisdale said "After talking with some board members, they said they prefer to put this issue behind them and move forward."

Tisdale said by the end of March, Lopez parents will know whether their children will be attending Gorenflo Elementary or Jeff Davis Elementary School in the fall. Both schools will hold open houses so the students and parents can tour the buildings and meet their teachers and principals.