Woodlawn High Could Be Test of Drake’s Plans for EBR Schools

Woodlawn High Could Be Test of Drake’s Plans for EBR Schools

Not long ago, Woodlawn High School was a quiet country school in rural East Baton Rouge Parish.  Everybody in the Woodlawn area knew one another, and the vast majority of parents sent their children to school there.

Now, things are very different.  Forty years of cross-town busing caused most parents in the area to move to adjacent parishes or enroll their children in private schools.  The school board built a new Woodlawn High School, which is one of the most modern in the parish.

But despite the new school facilities, Woodlawn continued to get bad press based on violence on the school grounds, often caused by students from outside the Woodlawn attendance area.

The St. George movement has focused on violence at Woodlawn High and the issue of safety.

Now new attendance lines for Woodlawn Middle School will help make Woodlawn High more of a neighborhood school, something new Supt. Warren Drake says he favors. As a result, Woodlawn High could be a test case of what new Supt. Warren Drake can do to turn around the fortunes of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.

Woodlawn High is an anomaly in the parish. It has 1,350 students and is at capacity. Despite an overwhelmingly white population in the Woodlawn attendance zone, 75 percent of the students at Woodlawn are minority students, and only 25 percent are white.  But the other side of that coin is that 25 percent of the student population ARE white, and that is a rare thing in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.

Unlike most other schools in the parish, Woodlawn is not a one-race school. Moreover, with new attendance zones for middle schools in the Southeast, white participation in the school is likely to grow.  The key is whether parents feel it is a safe environment where their children can get a good education.

For the St. George movement, that is what they say they have wanted all along — a return to neighborhood schools with safety and quality education.

If new Supt. Drake can encourage white parents to give Woodlawn a chance, the school could be become one of the few schools in the parish where the student body approximates the racial composition of the parish.

Fortunately, Drake knows how to make that scenario work.

His Zachary school system, which has been No. 1 in the state for 10 straight years, is not only the best school system in the state, it is also one of the most racially diverse.

At last count, the Zachary school system student count was 52 percent white and 48 percent minority.  Interestingly, the black students in Zachary outperform the white students in some parishes, such as Jefferson Parish.

If Supt. Warren Drake can do his magic at Woodlawn High, re-open Istrouma High and make it a success, and put EBR on a sound businesslike footing, many people in this parish will give the parish school system another look.  His leadership could be a game-changer.

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