By Noel Hammatt
The 2005-06 year started with a flourish. The East Baton Rouge Parish School System was midway through a four-year settlement agreement that would end a segregation lawsuit brought in 1956. Charlotte Placide, our new superintendent, was truly focused on local issues and committed to our community. Enrollment was up to 45,000, ending an 18-year decline that saw students leaving our system for private and parochial schools.
It had the makings of a year for the history books. And it was just that, but for a different reason.
When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the largest concentration of residents fled to two locations -- Houston to the west and Baton Rouge to the north. Our school district, 80 miles north of New Orleans, includes Louisiana’s state capital. Almost overnight, as our parish’s population bulged with traumatized families, our school system was faced with challenges and obstacles, including more than 8,000 new students.