The mood was tense as directors of New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy gathered for their monthly meeting, on Dec. 15. Five parents were on hand in response to an altercation at a Jefferson Parish bus stop between one of the parents and the son of two others.
Nanita Bailey, eyewitness and friend of the student’s parents, Alfred and Kedra Shepard, said that parent Kenneth Aikman had physically intimidated the Shepards’ son and that the incident had become violent.
Bailey said she was waiting at the bus stop when she saw Aikman jump out of his vehicle and begin yelling at the Shepards’ son. When the youth tried to walk away, Aikman blocked him. The student then shoved Aikman who responded by pushing the student up against the bus and verbally threatening him.
The bus driver and Aikman’s wife, Lynn, intervened and separated the two.
Bailey said that she called the school to report that an adult had attacked a student. The response was, “’Okay. Thank you,’” Bailey said. “That was it.”
Aikman apologized to the Board for “going outside the proper channels.” The Shepards objected that he had not apologized to them or their son.
“My whole concern is this incident has been swept under the rug,” Kedra Shepard said. “This gentleman came to the bus stop, started yelling at my son, cursing at my son, throwing him up against the wall.” She said school administrators told her ”that there was nothing they could do.”
Col. Terry Ebbert, board president, explained that the school was slow to act because the incident occurred off-campus, at a city bus stop in Jefferson Parish. He traced the problem to busing policy. “It was written for Type I charters all in Orleans Parish,” he said. Problems outside Orleans Parish that might be school-related had not been considered when the policy was written, he said.
“They sent him to the security office and had him checked for drugs.” Kedra Shepard responded, contending that Lynn Aikman has a personal relationship with Cecilia Garcia, the school principal, and had spoken with her by phone. “That is another problem I have,” she continued. “I understand we can try to fix the problem, so it doesn’t happen again; but what is going to happen now? What is the school going to do about this?”
The Board allowed nearly twenty minutes of discussion on the incident, but once both parties began speaking out of turn, many members requested that the meeting move to adjourn.
Approached after the meeting, the Aikmans refused to comment on the incident or its causes after the meeting.
In other business, the board discussed 19-year bonds the school is issuing to finance construction of its new campus within Federal City, the former Algiers Naval Support Station. Complicating the issue is debate over whether New Orleans Federal Alliance or the Algiers Development District will own the property.
A move to add three seats to the board was approved, bringing the total membership to 11. The board voted unanimously to offer one of the new seats to Carol McCall, a former school fundraiser who sat in on the previous meeting. A second invitation will go to retired Lt. Gen. John W. Bergman, with the third spot still open.
When it came time for public comment, Bailey again addressed the Board, this time asking why her daughter was put in a class for students with behavioral problems. “I wanted to know why she was in it, and why I wasn’t contacted.” She hadn’t known what the class was until her daughter explained it.
“The opportunity class? We mailed out letters to all parents in advance of setting up that class.” Commandant Bill Davis responded.
“You don’t have to wait until once-a-month meetings,” Ebbert told the parents present. “The staff is available, and will meet any time.”
Board members present in addition to Ebbert were Maj. Blake LeMaire, Eades Hogue, Capt. Dave Whiddon, James Reiss, Courtney Bagneris, and Capt. Keith Amacker.