Longview ISD announces 'Voluntary Desegregation Plan' following lifting of federal desegregation order

Longview ISD announces 'Voluntary Desegregation Plan' following lifting of federal desegregation order

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - After the lifting of a 1970 federal desegregation earlier this year, Longview ISD says they have "developed a plan to ensure equitable access to education opportunities." 
According to Longview Independent School District, during their regular meeting Monday night, the LISD board of trustees unanimously voted to adopt a Voluntary Desegregation Plan for magnet school programs in accordance with the United States Department of Education Magnet Schools Assistance Program Grant.
Under the federal desegregation order, the district says they were required to submit reports and documentation to the Justice Department, and any changes to school attendance zones or campuses required court approval.
In a statement released by the district, Superintendent Dr. James Wilcox explained that, while Longview ISD is no longer under the direct federal oversight, the district "will continue to ensure all of Longview's students have fair and equitable access to our best educational opportunities."
According to the district, Wilcox said the voluntary desegregation plan is designed to support the district's efforts to:
• Provide instruction and experiences that foster understanding and that further integrate students of different backgrounds together.
• Remedy the separation of minority students in one or more schools within the district;
• Prevent, reduce and/or eliminate social, racial, ethnic or economic isolation;
• Ensure equal educational opportunity and access for all students; and
• Cultivate student integration and diversity.

Related: Judge grants Tyler ISD unitary status; 46-year-old desegregation order dismissed
The Longview Independent School District says in their statement that on Jan. 20, 1970, they became subject to a court-ordered desegregation plan designed to eliminate one-race schools and achieve racial balance between the district's black and white student populations. In the years that followed, they continued, the district implemented numerous measures to achieve its desegregation goals. 

Due to the success of the district's court-ordered desegregation efforts, Longview ISD achieved unitary status on June 15, 2018, the LISD statement says.

When granting LISD unitary status, the court looked to the enrollment data in the October 2017 annual report submitted to the court. This data established that as of the Fall of 2017, the district's overall enrollment was 38 percent black, 33 percent Hispanic, and 26 percent white, the district noted. Interestingly, the most current U.S. Census Bureau statistics show the white population of Longview as 71 percent white and 22 percent black.

"While the district celebrates its success in achieving the desegregation goals ordered by the court, research shows that segregation rises when court orders end."

 LISD Magnet Grant Director Dr. Craig Coleman said the district has a compelling interest in preventing resegregation, eliminating the negative effects of past racial isolation of black students, and achieving the educational benefits of diversity, the LISD statement says.

"By bringing together students of different racial, socioeconomic and family educational backgrounds, as well as making challenging, yet attractive curricular programming available to traditionally under-represented students, LISD seeks to prevent minority group isolation and any loss of the gains it achieved while under the desegregation order," he said. "Further, we also seek to attract students to the district to offset minority group isolation, and better reflect the make-up of the community."

The following description of the way this will be implemented is from the LISD statement, released on August 13, 2018.

How It Works

The principal strategy used by Longview ISD to prevent, eliminate, and/or reduce the isolation of minority students is through the establishment of and continuation of existing magnet and charter schools. 
A magnet school as defined in Sec. 5302 [20 U.S.C. 7231a] is a public elementary school, public secondary school, public elementary education center, or public secondary education center that offers a special curriculum capable of attracting substantial numbers of students of different racial backgrounds. 
Under LISD's Voluntary Desegregation Plan, a magnet school is experiencing minority group isolation if the Black student population exceeds 53 percent.
Theme-Based Magnet Schools
In response to a strong community desire — established through a series of town hall meetings throughout the community, strategic planning workshops, and stakeholder feedback — the Board of Trustees is focusing magnet school expansion on four key areas:

  • STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics)
  • International Baccalaureate (IB)
  • Early College High School
  • Montessori Education

These themes will be developed and provided at the following magnet schools:

  • East Texas Montessori Prep Academy
  • Ware East Texas Montessori Academy
  • Ned E. Williams Elementar
  • Forest Park Middle School
  • Longview High School

In addition to existing magnet school programs, the district reserves the right to establish additional programs as needed in order to better foster diversity. 
Student Selection
Magnet school programs are open to all students. Schools will not use academic performance criteria as admissions criteria to gain entrance into the magnet schools.
          • Automatic Admission: Students currently enrolled in a magnet school shall be able to continue at the school without application, though inter-district transfer students must annually submit an out-of-district transfer form in accordance with Texas Education Code 25.036. Students who reside in the school's attendance zone, whose sibling(s) attend(s) the school, or whose parent or guardian work at the school shall be automatically admitted.
          • Weighted Lottery: After automatic admissions have been placed, for each grade level where the number of applications received exceeds the number of spaces available, a student lottery shall be conducted. The lottery will be weighted with priority given to the following:
Programmatic Continuity from Feeder School
A student who attended a magnet or charter campus will be given priority to continue the thematic pathway at the next campus level.
Make-up of Geographic Area
An analysis of geographic areas within and outside the district, based on the percentage of single parent households, household income, homeowners, and educational attainment shall be conducted to determine the area's demographics. Based on this analysis, priority shall be given to students, regardless of the individual student's race, from geographic areas that would prevent or reduce minority group racial isolation.
School-Choice Timeline
The district's Office of School Choice has established a timeline to ensure consistency with recruitment fairs, applications, lotteries, and acceptance letters as follows:
November-February — information/recruitment sessions;
March — applications are due;
April — lotteries are held if necessary and notification letters are sent via U.S. Mail to students selected through the lottery;
May 1st — commitment letters are due to the Office of School Choice;
May — Registration and Commitment meetings. The Office of School Choice maintains a database of all applicants and enrollees by school/program. Schools shall be responsible for providing information to parents. The Office of School Choice shall provide support to parents in the magnet school selection/assignment process. 
Marketing and Awareness Efforts
The magnet program director will work closely with LISD's Office of School Choice and the individual magnet schools for an informational and recruitment campaign to solicit intra- and inter-district magnet school candidates throughout the year. The annual marketing and recruitment campaign will advertise programmatic themes of each LISD campus, explain the transfer process, and publicize a campus informational tour schedule with accessible tour dates throughout the school year and summer months.
Monitoring and Accountability
The district will annually monitor and assess the effectiveness of its efforts to foster diversity at all sites and efforts to avoid minority group isolation. This will include an analysis of:
The percentage of socio-economically disadvantaged students at each school
The number of new applications to the magnet school each year
The percentage of black/non-black students at each school
The effectiveness of the district's choice programs
The effectiveness of the district's magnet schools
The district will continue to collect and maintain data necessary for such analysis and will take any necessary corrective action through race-neutral outreach and recruitment. The administration will monitor implementation of the magnet program and demographic indicators and shall make periodic reports to the board regarding implementation.
Non-Discrimination Policies 
Longview ISD is committed to providing an equal opportunity for all students to learn through the curriculum offered, regardless of a student's race, color, creed, disability, religion, sex, gender, ancestry, age, national origin, or socio-economic background, or any other legally protected characteristic. 
No person shall be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination by the district on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, age, disability, or relationship or association with an individual with a disability. 

Information and questions regarding the Voluntary Desegregation Plan can be addressed to the Office of School Choice at (903) 381-2200.

Trustees meet in the boardroom of the LISD Education Support Center, 1301 E. Young St. The next regular meeting is tentatively scheduled for noon on August 30.