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Louisiana Magnet School Principal Under Investigation

January 1, 2020

Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy is a public magnet school located in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Enrollment is contingent upon achieving a satisfactory score on an admissions test.

The school’s website includes a proud display of its accolades:

The State of Louisiana recently implemented a new, more stringent, formula to calculate the school performance score (SPS). Taylor scored 130.2 on a 150 point scale during the 2017-2018 school year (138.2 using the old formula).With this most recent review, Taylor Academy has maintained its A rating for over a decade!  View Taylor Academy’s most recent report card

Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy has been named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2019. Taylor Academy consistently appears in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of the nation’s “Best Public High Schools.” The ranking released in April 2019 lists Taylor as first in Jefferson Parish, second in Louisiana, and #86 nationally.

“Taylor Academy has maintained its A for over a decade!”

Imagine the pressure to keep that A and to continue to deliver top-notch honors.

Not much room for the infringement of real life.

The week of December 09, 2019, Taylor Academy principal, Jaime Zapico, who was twice selected as Jefferson Parish Principal of the year, was missing from school.

News broke on Wednesday, December 11, 2019, that Zapico is under investigation, allegedly for grade fixing.

Though the December 11, 2019, nola.com report mentions a “letter” sent to parents, the correspondence was actually a text message. I spoke with two parents who received a text message. One parent confirmed that the text was sent on the same day that Zapico and Taylor Academy were in the news for grade fixing.

The nola.com report includes complete details of what it refers to as a “letter.” Nola.com states that the “letter” was sent on Wednesday afternoon:

Patrick Taylor Academy Families,

This letter is to inform you about the status of the principal at Patrick Taylor. Principal Zapico is not currently at school due to an ongoing, confidential matter. She remains the principal at Patrick Taylor. Because this matter is ongoing, we cannot share any other information. We will share more information with you when we are able to do so, but wanted to share this now in light of recent media coverage. This matter is not related to anything that has endangered the safety of students or staff.

As always, our students are our top priority. The district is working with teachers and staff at Patrick Taylor Academy to make sure students continue to receive high quality instruction and support.

The WDSU report (also December 11, 2019) mentions a “message” sent to parents.

As of this writing, no message (letter or otherwise) is posted on the school’s website.

At the end of the WDSU report, a parent identified the issue that had parents contacting both the Jefferson Parish School Board as well as the media in search of information: grade fixing.

Other administration apparently tried to keep the situation under wraps, but Taylor Academy students knew something was going on (if for no other reason, it seems, than the fact that their principal had gone missing). Moreover, if indeed the issue was one of grade fixing by an administrator, it seems that one or more teachers might notice the grade changes.

Too, it is highly improbable that even a single student whose course grade has been suddenly favorably modified would resist telling even one classmate.

Such news is bound to break.

On December 13, 2019, Jefferson Parish superintendent, Cade Brumley, confirmed Zapico’s absence during what Brumley carefully described to WDSU as “a thorough review”– though Brumley’s words about not treating Taylor Academy with any favoritism hint at investigating the very quality that makes Taylor Academy a favorite– school scores that hinge on student grades:

Brumley refused to say what Zapico is accused of doing, citing personnel privacy laws, but he did say that the principal is absent from the school during the probe, which he described as an “ongoing, confidential internal review.”

“I can tell you that there are no children or faculty members that have been endangered in any way,” Brumley said. “We just have procedures in place of how we operate a school system, and sometimes it becomes necessary to remove some people so you can conduct a thorough review.” …

…Brumley said the caliber of the academy will not sway the parish’s determination to seek the truth.

“Patrick Taylor is a great school,” Brumley said. “It’s the No. 2 ranked school in the state of Louisiana. It’s the highest ranked school in Jefferson Parish, but we’re not going to handle matters at Patrick Taylor differently than we would handle them at any other location related to a personnel issue.”

The situation is ongoing, not only as concerns Taylor Academy, but also as concerns the test-worshiping, hyper-grading climate in which public education continues to struggle.

Cheating flourishes when testing and grading swallow a school’s identity.

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4 Comments
  1. Karla Barham permalink

    Not surprising. The pressure of “scores” is apparent in all schools. A,B,C,D, or F schools feel the same pressure.

  2. Dee permalink

    Brumley has children that attend Patrick Taylor, from my understanding. I can only hope that the review actually reveals what happened and it’s not swept under the rug as most things are done with that school.
    There are so many things that need to be uncovered when it comes to that administration. This is hopefully the tip of the iceberg.

  3. Elena Anderson permalink

    As a parent at this school. It’s towards the end of February and there had been no update. This is very frustrating.

  4. Bonnie Matthews permalink

    These charges/accusations were dropped. All Jefferson parish did was ruin her career for awhile I’m sure. You would think you would do a follow up story, but I doubt you will. You should look into the people that brought up the allegation and check to see if they’ve done that before, you might be surprised.

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