Former-Schoolboard President Danny Ridgel’s take on Desegregation Case

Danny Ridgel - Photograph by Robert Pecarrere

Danny Ridgel – Photograph by Robert Pecarrere

Danny Ridgel , age 63, is a business owner in charge of a small construction company in the Tangipahoa parish. Born in Tickfaw in 1950, he graduated from Independence High School and spent four years in the U.S. Navy.

He attended Southeastern Louisiana University from 1978 to 1979 and majored in accounting. He did not graduate.

Ridgel was a member of the Tangipahoa Parish School Board from 2006 to 2010. He was a board member, vice president for one year and president for one year.

As a board member, his activities ranged from different committees and tasks such as finances. Ridgel said, “I was on various committees  When you’re vice president your the chairman of the finance committee. So I was president of the finance committee for one year. As president, you assign committees and [as president] you are a member of every committee. There are a lot of committees and also you have different delegations: Hammond delegations, Penance delegations, Amite delegations. You’re an ex officio member of those committees, so you work on everything.”

 

Ridgel considered himself an active member of the school board upon his years on the council, however admitted regrets about the longevity of the case.  Ridgel said, “I think all board members do something to influence it one way or another. I think I was very active in insuring that we followed the desegregation suit and the desegregation order from the court. In that way, I think I was very active in that matter. I think it’s unfortunate that the desegregation case has lasted this long. There were many times that the desegregation case could have been settled at various times. Through the past, we have reached certain milestones with hiring and students attendance that we probably could have been out of some of the orders if not all. I think that it is unfortunate for our children that this thing lingers on.”

Ridgel proposed a way way to put the desegregation case to an end. He further proposed that if everyone were to cooperate with one another the case would be solved. Ridgel said, “I think there is a way to solve the case and bring it to an end. I think one problem that has faced the school board and the school system for many many years is the lack of cooperation from the other side. I think that the board in general and the school system has worked in a manner to try to solve this case and try to move forward, but each time you try to do something it seems to be met with opposition from the other side. You have to have the two sides working together. I think the revamped, and this was after I was off the board, I think the new plan is a plan that I always thought would work. The bottom line to the desegregation suit is maybe two fold. One with hiring , and I think Mr. Kolwe and the board has done a great job.”

 

Ridgel spoke admirably of the current board members as he feels they are moving closer to finishing the case. Ridgel said, “When I was on the board and since I was off the board they have done a good job in hiring African Americans and minorities in certain positions. I think they have gone over and above the call of duty in that manner. The other thing is to try to make sure that our student population is such that either or all of our schools are desegregated. That being said, I think that there is a simple way to solve that and that is to redraw some lines and to move some students. It is not a popular thing to do, but that’s a way to reach the end. There’s some areas that are very difficult to solve that because of the way the student body and the make up is of this parish. People live where they live and as you have subdivisions and such going up in Loranger area and the Ponchatula area it’s hard to meet those numbers of African Americans and Whites. I think it can be done, because every school doesn’t have to have a certain percentage. If you can get your majority of schools, as I understand it with the court, if you can make that effort to get the majority of schools desegregated they understand the problems with trying to desegregate every school in the system. I think the new proposal, in front of the judge now, is a great proposal and I think it would work. Then again, you have to have cooperative relations with the other side which we have never had.”

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