Friday, December 12, 2008

And while we wait...

I was surprised by the turnout at today's fairness hearing. I know some were not able to get away from work and others were tied up with other things. I made it there just before the Judge entered the room but not soon enough to get on the list to speak in minor opposition to certain aspects of the proposal. Mrs. Nicole Edler presented in my opinion some very compelling reasons for CHOICE among Magnet Schools in Jefferson Parish and hopefully this, along with all the letters and emails from some of you, has given Judge Kurt Engelhardt some cause to pause in ruling in complete favor of the proposal. This is what I would have said today:
A lot has happened in the 21 months since we began a campaign to see a fair and equitable Jefferson parish school desegregation plan be delivered by the school board attorneys to the plaintiff, Mrs. Lena Dandridge - Houston. My daughter got a puppy, my son his driver's license, I lost more hair and made new friends. I put a fence around my house and was offered to work with a demolition contractor. I participated in my Fraternity's playground restoration projects and brought to families hope and joy where there was little during the holiday season. My daughter earned awards in chess and music, my son a college scholarship. I taught children respect for themselves and their elders and how to analyze and annotate DNA sequences. I acquired equipment for my university for teaching and research and have recommended some research programs for funding and some for resubmission. I attended the funerals of family and family friends and recommended students for admission into college and professional schools. I watched children become inspired by proteins in 3-D and cheered and supported participants in a run/walk to cure cancer. I attended birthday parties, honorary celebrations with celebrities and supported political candidates who were successful and some who were not.

A lot has happened in the 21 months since we began a campaign to see a fair and equitable Jefferson parish school desegregation plan be delivered...none of which would have happened if I were not allowed to CHOOSE to cross the Mississippi River!

Let's pray for a fair and equitable decision by Judge Engelhardt for all involved...soon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

IMO...The New Plan

Yes, disruption of the progress of children in a stable working environment is not good. The right thing to do, since change is inevitable, is to effect the fewest number of children. As for the concerns at Hazel Park, Mrs. Kovack and Mr. St. Pierre have taken the right approach by giving students and parent at Hazel Park the opportunity to continue through their programs while making this transition to a Magnet School. In this way no children are adversely effected. Demanding high achievement will only foster greater success among our children and benefit the community overall in many positive ways.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pass it on...

This may be our last opportunity:

Public Hearing On Proposed Plan For Schools for Advanced Study

The Jefferson Parish School Board will hold a special meeting at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at the School Board Room at Bonnabel High School to conduct a public hearing on the Proposed Plan for Schools for Advanced Study prepared pursuant to paragraph 6 of the Consent Order in Lena Vern Dandridge, et al, vs. Jefferson Parish School Board, United States District Court N. 14-801.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Equality in magnet schools

Being as both of my children attend Metaire Academy, I was excited to hear at the co-op meeting that Julie Quinn has managed to get the Legislature to approve a $40,000 grant for the playground. My kids play on this playground every weekday, so this benefits my family directly.

I did stop to think about Gretna Academy and Ruppel, which were in Superintendent Diane Rousell's plan to function as the two elementary magnet schools on the westbank, and presumably still will be when she submits her new revised plan for a board vote at the October school board meeting. My thoughts revolved around whether either of these schools received such funding for their own playgrounds.

It is possible they have, and the news just hasn't hit the information pipeline yet. Or they might have received such funding for other programs MAAS already has, or for necessities they may lack. I just wonder if these westbank schools have a friend in Baton Rouge as Metairie Academy does, and if not, how do they get one? A Julie Quinn doesn't come along every day, particularly for the westbank parents who are stuck with ever half-baked idea the board comes up with.

The school board will ultimately get to pass every motion they wish regardless of whether parents agree or not, because we have no voice and we have no vote when it comes to the board's tiresome motions. The magnet school parents are pretty insignificant in numbers; the district parents, however, are plentiful. While magnet school parents may not be able to change the world, or even the vote, perhaps those district parents who are dissatisfied with the schools their children have been moved to, will remember the school board's attitude when it is time to vote on something that parents can control- the school board members.

The difficult and complex process continues...

It would seem apparent that the efforts of our School Board and those of Dr. Diane Roussel in constructing a proposal to educate our children would be most productive if the lines of communication remained opened and accessible to the parents and teachers of our parishes Magnet School System. Even though there was some misunderstanding among parents during the past two months regarding the distribution of grades at the middle school and high school levels, eventually the "light" came on and now the structuring of a new Magnet School Proposal begins again.

As we recover from yet another storm all is quiet but no doubt Dr. Roussel and others have gathered the parental petitions and recommendations sent in August and are busy preparing what may be the final proposal, like it or not, for Board approval. This will likely be the plan to go before Judge Kurt Englehardt in answer to concerns for fairness in addressing the Dandridge Consent Order on the first of November. Time for vetting this issue is running out. Of course, the Board could quickly make a unilateral and final decision without community input...however, doing this has not turned out for the best so far.

Congratulation! Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies for your diligence and fortitude in the face of what could have had a crippling effect on your record of success. I certainly hope the Judge will allow my daughter and all others like mine from the Westbank of this parish to apply.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

More insight from the all seeing eyes...

Schoolyard Shuffle Angers Jeff Parents!

Mr. Broach wrote a interesting article published today in the Times-Picayune.

In the spring of 2005, Jefferson Parish public school officials pulled a fast one.

With no public notice, the School Board waived its usual rules and abruptly decided to shift one of its new magnet schools, Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy, from an Elmwood office building to the campus of T.H. Harris Middle School in Metairie. Board member Martin Marino touted the move as a good way to accommodate the growing enrollment at the science school and make use of extra space at Harris, which, coincidentally, is in his School Board district.

Parents had other ideas. Shut out of the decision-making, scores of them just as abruptly erected a wall of opposition. Within three weeks, the School Board backed off and, for the time being, left the science school in Elmwood.

You might think the School Board, supposedly a bunch of astute politicians, would have learned its lesson. Yet board members have been at it again in recent weeks, trying to shift classes -- even entire student bodies -- at three more East Jefferson schools. In the process, they again have unwittingly illustrated the natural growing pains of trying to improve public education and the hazards -- easily foreseeable -- of altering schools without first soliciting public opinion.

Any fundamental change is difficult. Jefferson began discovering this in 2003 when the School Board hired Diane Roussel as superintendent with a promise to improve public education in a parish where it had stagnated for years. Along the way, the creation of magnet schools has proven to be enormously complex and fraught with controversy.

But some of the growing pains are of the School Board's own making. Such as making major changes without testing the political waters first.

A reasonable case can be made for closing Riverdale High School and dispersing its dwindling enrollment among other conventional high schools on the east bank of Jefferson Parish. High school classes, and the eighth grade, for the top-achieving east bank students could then be moved to Riverdale's campus from their current home at Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies, where Old Metairie neighbors are wary of growing enrollment. Haynes would remain a magnet middle school and take on the fifth grade now housed at Metairie Academy for Advanced Studies.

But in endorsing those moves last month, the School Board failed to consult with its constituents.

Had school officials held parent and community meetings on the proposal and made some adjustments based on the input, chances are they would have won some support and spared themselves much of the current controversy. Parents like to know what the plans are for their children's education. Some might even have suggestions. Nowhere is that more apparent than with magnet schools, which have a way of engaging parents like no other public schools.

But the Jefferson School Board didn't do this, and only now is the school system starting to hold community meetings.

Roussel can't be blamed for the misstep. Her job is executive: to run the school system and, with broad direction from the School Board, try to improve it. It's the job of board members, the elected officials, to take the pulse of the public.

More growing pains are likely as this school system lurches from mediocrity to what should be excellence in one of the richest and most populous parishes in Louisiana. Some of the pain is the inevitable result of trying something new.

But some, like moving schools wholesale across town without parental input, can be easily avoided if the School Board would do its job right.

. . . . . . .

Drew Broach is the East Jefferson bureau chief. E-mail or call (504) 883-7059.

Sometimes its good to know you are not crazy. What do you think?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Jeff Parish School Board gathering momentum for "Reconstruction"?

I was fortunate to attend the JPSB meeting Wednesday afternoon, August 13th, 2008. It was a more pleasant experience than past meetings I attended. The meeting moved smoothly through agenda items and the board members (for the most part) made their points quickly. This allowed for parents and representatives from Riverdale High School, Haynes and Metairie Academy's the opportunity to express in the assembly their feelings and analysis of the JPSB Plans to restructure these and other schools in the parish.

It seemed that many of these parents are beginning to realize the consequences of the Dandridge consent order which itself is a consequence of segregation in Jefferson Parish. My heart goes out to these parents. I only hope this realization inspires discussion within these families about the deterioration of the culture and atmosphere in the South after Reconstruction. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

I'm sure we appreciate the superintendent encouraging input from parents through the Magnet School Survey. One would hope that this course of action would have been taken regardless of the Federal Court's oversight. I thought my responses to the survey might have a different perspective than most so I've included them below now that the deadline for submission has passed.

A curious observation before the meeting began today...did we PRAY? Hummm...those were the days.

Academically Advanced Magnet School Plan responses…


I think the superintendent and her staff are best to know how to distribute staff. I find the teachers at my school committed and concerned for the development of their children. As a teacher I know commitment weighs more than certification because it is a selfless and often thankless job. Few certificates measure a teacher’s level of commitment.

Grade Configuration:

I think the grade configuration is typical. I was in an elementary school which housed 1st through 8th grades. My high school began with 9th. There is nothing wrong with the division proposed. It however creates a greater demand for facilities to house these different divisions. I’d prefer one school for elementary (K-8) and a second for high school (9-12) typically fed by the elementary.


Communication is key, but also a common curriculum will insure that all students have the opportunity to adequately prepare for their next level of education. There are means that I shared with my principal that allow administrators and teachers to communicate with each other in real time with little effort and at very low cost over the Internet. With gas and traffic the way it is this I think is a wonderful way to build community within the school system to the benefit of all the children in the parish. Technology is scary to many but this type of transition is happening and our children need to know it exists and how to use it responsibly.


There is little comment to be made about this. I am experienced with only one principal and have been very pleased.


It is good that the children’s eligibility and accumulated service hours not be affected by this transition. I hope this applies as well to all competitions, i.e. academic games, debate, honor societies, music.

Names of Schools:

- East Bank High School
- West Bank High School

I think naming schools would be a nice competition for the students who will have to attend these schools.

Additional Comments:

Everyone is aware, though I have heard no one say emphatically, that enrollment on the Eastbank has declined for no other reason but as a result of the storm. The recovered enrollment now reflects people who were able to return, rebuild and reestablish themselves in their homes and businesses. Good timing on the part of the plaintiff in the consent order in exposing the desegregation order when the demographics in all of New Orleans now resembling the 1970s. I know the consent order is justified and the JPSB plan is warranted. I am a product of segregation. I know it is meant to be punitive so not everyone will like it. I think that under the circumstances today we have a great opportunity to advance our educational performance in Jefferson Parish, provide opportunities to some (not all) who would not have had it, and certainly become a role model for large, racially and economically diverse communities around the country. I just want these efforts to impact our children’s education in as small a measure as possible.

In order for teachers to be effective and students to be served I think it is very important to keep the class sizes at their lowest possible levels. If the proposed configuration will increase the number of sections housed at each grade level and the student/teacher ratio is maintained at 20/1 then this is in the best interest of our students. Presently, a class size over 30 is UNACCEPTABLE. I know this transition may result in disruptions, but the proposal for the 2009-2010 school year should not require any class to be above the maximum number of students allowed.

I know resources and personnel are strained, as is funding. This is always the case. Let’s make a strong effort to keep the numbers low, and if necessary, turning students away only as a last resort.

Dr. Roussel, you have a very difficult task in managing students as well as parents and guardians who have little time or inclination to participate in the adequate education of their children. This effectively makes it more difficult for those of us who know education is vital to our children’s survival and are daily engaged in their success in school. I pray you stay vigilant and leave a legacy for your successor to build upon. I pray also that my colleagues and I whose perspective may differ, will find a willing and caring heart not only for our own children’s well-being but also for the children who desire to share in the benefits of a free education in the 21st century.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Very Wise Young Man Once Said...

I am a senior at Riverdale High School and even though it doesn't really affect my academic career, they should really change their stance. Not only did they not read the plan they unanimously accepted (which I can't blame them, seeing as we elect people that do the same thing in a variety of our government positions), but also their stance simply does not make any sense.

Let’s examine their only arguments for changing Riverdale into a magnet school:

1.) School Board Member Ellen Kovach says that there is a growing demand for magnet schools.

2.) This inherently prevents “many qualified” students from gaining access to a magnet school.

3.) It’s fiscally responsible to carry out this action.

4.) Old Metairie residents have also complained about traffic.

That’s the only four arguments that the school board can present, all of which can be refuted quite easily:

1.) What demand for magnet schools? For some reason, our school board finds this incessant need to continue building up accelerated programs. They invested thousands of dollars into IBO, the Patrick Taylor Science and Technology Academy, and the current Haynes Academy. The question is, where is the demand for all this? Why don’t we request from the school board how many of our kids in our parish have applied to private universities in the past? I can estimate the number to be relatively small. Even with these supreme magnet schools, large numbers of kids are still going to be utilizing TOPS and in-state programs that can be achieved at the average high school. Now I do not see a demand for magnet schools, which they may see. But what I do see is the demand for adequate teaching across the board. I see a demand for qualified teachers. What’s more important: spending thousands of dollars for kids that could achieve well in less-expensive programs like Gifted and AP, or actually providing a decent education to the majority of the parish? Our school board needs to get its priorities in order.

2.) Exactly. That’s the point of a magnet school. Kids will be utilizing a magnet school to get a better education, but also prepare them for college. One of the biggest aspects of post-secondary education is the competitiveness. One has to apply for colleges and compete against other students for acceptance. In essence, the same thing is happening with the magnet schools. So instead, we should just accept all kids applying to a magnet school because it’s CLEARLY the most ideal system post-graduation. (Note the sarcasm)

3.)While I concede that Riverdale’s loss of students while having a pretty large capacity does show signs of fiscal irresponsibility, it is more costly to put the magnet school at Riverdale. The first thing we have to realize is that our school board has consistently been incompetent in location. They had the science and tech school in a location, which they eventually moved. This magnet school is only going to be at Riverdale for a few years, and then also moved to Kenner. The cost of a brief transition is far greater than leaving things alone. Then another transition to the other school costs even more. The money you wasted on programs at Riverdale like IBO would be at a great cost… It’s so disheartening to hear OUR school board scream fiscal responsibility when they waste money left and right. More importantly, back to my first point, it would be more fiscally responsible to worry about the kids that aren’t the cream of the crop, but those that are struggling. Poor test scores affects us in terms of federal funding. And any money we waste in unqualified and ineffective teaching (while also failing to meet federal statutes) is simply ridiculous.

4.) Oh! THE TRAFFIC!!! Oh, such a real good reason to move a school. So instead, we potentially create more traffic at the Riverdale campus, until they complain? Come on, it’s simply ridiculous. The only reason they would even consider this, is because our corrupt school board is so easily influenced by the wealthy members of Old Metairie.And here is where I go on my rant. Ellen Kovach, the ringleader of this plot to change Riverdale, is clearly the most incompetent person on the school board. She has recently joined, and has already begun to institute some of the most ridiculous measures this parish has ever seen. She lives in Old Metairie, so I’m sure she’s one of the few complaining about traffic… She has a record concerning actions that the community disapproves of. In 2006, an overwhelming crowd protested one of her previous campaigns against the constituents of this parish.


Her plans were considered racist and one person described her as “David Duke with a dress.” She plans on running for judge within the year, leaving her to vacate her position as a school board member; just after she plans on “helping” the system. Kovach looks to advocate ethics and reform, but with a proposal like this, we can see she is clearly lying. She does not care about this school system or the students and parents affected by it. All she plans to do is use these propositions as another mark on her resume and go about her merry way wreaking havoc…

I’m done.

Ryan Dolin
July 17, 2008 1:27 PM

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thank you Judge, experience should be expected!

Seems our school board attorneys feel that a background and experience is not a prerequisite to oversee implementation of the desegregation plan, provide suggestions for improvement and prepare an annual progress report for the judge. I am please that the judge is keeping his eyes open and is recommending his own man as this person's report is very important in his decisions regarding the separation of the parish by the river and other restructuring plans for the JPSS. What prompted the judges decision to intervene in Patin's choices is not evident but I'm sure the judge is savy. In this day and age if you're not coming to the top on Google're probably nobody in your field! Take a look:

Patin's Picks:

Google David Bartz - nothing, unless he's into New Jersey real estate.
Google Leonard Stevens - nothing.
Google Connie Chenevert - Recognized Teacher of the Year winners from the elementary school, middle school and high school levels. Connie Chenevert, Rapides' supervisor of personnel.

Engelhardt's Pick:

Google Kelly Frels - Mr. Frels was lead attorney for the Houston Independent School District (HISD) in its successful transition from a segregated to an integrated system in the 1980s. He assisted HISD in establishing the Houston Community College as a component of HISD and later helped the community college become an independent entity.

His involvement in representing public school districts led him and five others to organize the School Law Section of the State Bar of Texas, which he was appointed chair in 2004.

In my contest!

Friday, July 18, 2008

While shopping for school supplies...

Here are words I shared with Mr. Bronston before his article today:

As a parent of a Westbank 4th grader attending Metairie Academy (for 4 years now) I am dishearten by the vote of the board to remove Metairie's 5th grade to the Haynes campus. I may be one of the parents who will have to attend a Westbank school after completing the terminal grade at Metairie Academy making my child now have to go to Thomas Jefferson, having the only 5th grade magnet program on the Westbank in 2009. The only other option would be Patrick Taylor but (as Nicole pointed out) not until the following year as PT starts with 6th grade, requiring my child to possibly change schools again (three schools in three years). So much for "choice".

I like to express most of my feelings and view to the school board through this blog. I find school board meetings unproductive and stifling of parental expression so I refrain from confrontations there. How difficult would it be for the board to share their intentions...if they were confident that they were doing the right thing. Our concerns will be firmly made to the board, if they wish to know, during the fairness hearing before Judge Engelhardt concerning the status of magnets on both sides of the river. This kind of unilateral decision making by the JPSB is not one that the Judge will find in keeping with the ideals of fairness.

I understand and welcome the necessary growing pains that will result as magnet programs potentially expand into Blenk High School and Kenner and throughout the greater New Orleans area. I only hope that the political motivations for this growth will fall in "lockstep" with providing more of our children on the Westbank and Eastbank with quality public education and development. The magnet ideal attracts good teachers and administrators and demands disciplined study above the average from children and teachers. This ideal also promotes an environment where parents and guardians are encouraged by the great potential their children demonstrate in various academic and creative disciplines. I'd like to see this kind of educational experience grow uninhibited by the viciousness of the past so our children will understand and refrain from repeating it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Will the Real Jefferson Parish School Board Members Please Stand Up?

Stand up and protect and serve the children and the families of Jefferson Parish, as you were sworn to do.

Have our current school board members forgotten the promises and assurances that they made to the public school system, or has it been so long ago since they came into office that the memory escapes them?

Recently, a system-wide resolution to dissolve Riverdale High School was passed by our illustrious board without a survey, feasibility study, parental input, or a projected long-range plan which would focus on any positive or detrimental implications to the school system or its affected students, teachers, and families.

On the JPPSS website:

"The Jefferson Parish Public School System is committed to the goal of providing quality education for every child in the district. Toward this end, JPPSS established partnerships with parents and with the community. It is the school system’s belief that everyone gains if schools and parents work together to support education.JPPSS also believes that student academic achievement requires that parents have an understanding of curriculum, academic achievement standards, assessments, district/school policies and procedures, and of how to monitor their children’s progress.

Given that parental involvement is one of the key components in helping students achieve academic success, JPPSS promotes parental involvement and empowerment at all levels throughout the district".

Where was the parental input and involvement in creating the following plan, which impacts so many of our children?

The plan:

Dissolve Riverdale High school. Reinvent it as a magnet high school, to be tentatively renamed "Riverdale Academy for Advanced Studies". Remove grades 8-11 from Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies. Relocate those Haynes students to the new Riverdale Academy. Approximately 600 current Riverdale students would then be dispersed to other local high schools (with the exception of any that might test into the magnet school, and possibly 11th and 12 grade students). Remove fifth grade from the magnet elementary school, Metairie Academy for Advanced Studies, and move those students to Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies, which will now serve grades 5-7.

An attempt was made by JPSB Member Ellen Kovach, District 4, in 2007 to perform a feasibility study with the intent to separate Haynes Academy into a middle and high school, eventually moving the upper grades to another school to alleviate any traffic concerns voiced by the business and residential communities nearest to the school, and to relieve any alleged overcrowding at the school. At that time, the vote by the school board to perform the study failed. Here we are, one year later, and there was no study voted upon this time by Kovach or any other school board member, just the decision to implement the plan. Period.

The entire school board voted its approval at the July 9, 2008 school board meeting, even while admitting that, once again, they did not in fact read what they were voting for. See excerpts below from the statement by one school board member:

Statement on Revised Academically Advanced Magnet School Plan By Gene Katsanis, Jefferson Parish School Board Member, District 9

"Unfortunately, I did not follow my initial instinct to abstain when voting on the ³Revised Academically Advanced Magnet School Plan². I did not read the plan at the time of the vote as I stated at the meeting. As of this writing (Saturday, July 12, 2008 at 10:34 a. m.), I still have not read it. I just found the plan 30 minutes ago and see that it is full of tables and charts that need to be studied and analyzed. I will do this as soon as possible.

We need to undo what we unwisely did. We need to vet this important issue with the parents and public before we consider a plan this important which affects so many students and so much change".

Perhaps he did not read the JPPSS website where it discusses and espouses parental involvement, either.


-- Where it concerns the desegregation order, this is not the first, nor the second time that the current Jefferson Parish School Board members have voted to approve an agenda item without first reading or otherwise researching what they were voting on. They voted blindly to approve the original desegregation order, and also the revised desegregation order (released on April 16, 2008) admittedly without reading its contents and/or any changes then made to the subsequent revised order. (And THEN the school board, unbelievably, did not even publicly vote on the substantial changes made to the final revised order released on April 24, 2008). This desegregation order affects thousands of students, and yet they couldn't take the time to skim over this document?

--At this writing, approximately 200 students (not to mention several teachers) have been transferred involuntarily or otherwise assigned in accordance with the desegregation order to Riverdale High School for the upcoming 2008-09 school year, leaving them to attend Riverdale for one year before it changes over to the magnet school, which will disrupt their education again by transferring them out to yet another school for the 2009-10 school year. This will make for 3 schools in three years for these high school students. THAT will look good on the old college applications.

--Metairie Academy will lose 5th grade to Haynes. Where are those students interested in applying to attend Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy (with serves grades 6-12)expected to attend school for ONE YEAR before applying to Pat Taylor for 6th grade? This will make for 3 schools in three years for these students also. Moreover, this will affect the decisions of many parents about whether to keep their children at the current school that they are attending for 5th grade (to stay at the school through the last grade offered), or withdraw them to attend Pat Taylor. What would you do?

--As yet, there has been no discussion about what will happen to Riverdale Academy for Advanced Studies if/when (yeah, right...) the new magnet high school is built in Kenner, on land owned by the school board, allegedly in 3 years or so. Will it then revert back to a standard high school, once again moving students from their attending high schools back to this revised attendance zone and disrupting their educational track?

In closing:The JPSB makes arbitrary, sudden decisions without parental input or projected thought or even care about the impact on their students and/or teachers. A parent's responsibility is to their child, not in remaining in the public schools to make the system better, while their child is treated as a social experiment. That's the school board's job, one in which they are failing miserably.

When the Jefferson Parish school system attempts to "lure" the private school families into the public system, they must first give them a real choice. Saying that the choice is either the district school or the "assigned" magnet school is not a choice. Saying that these children must then be shuffled around like some cruel game of musical chairs at the whim of the superintendent, the school board, and its attorneys will have parents running and screaming back to the private sector. I doubt that their private school and/or board of directors of said school will tell those parents that their children must leave to attend some other "attendance zone" school. Most parents that I know will take door number one---the real choice---the private schools, where THEY have to final choice--not the superintendent, school board, and their paid-by-the-hour attorneys, who have no interest or empathy for any of our students, only in the amount of their final paycheck or the reputation that the end result might bring to them.

The way to bring about true school reform is to give families true school choice, not some watered-down, false version of it.

Will the real Jefferson Parish school board members please stand up...for your students, teachers, and families?

Will the real Jefferson Parish school board members just stand up...and do the right thing?


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Weeping may endure for the night but the joy...oh the joy...

We have all experienced either directly or indirectly the confusion and anger, indignation and downright outrage initiated by the actions that the Jefferson Parish School Board was forced to take as a consequence of the Dandridge consent decree. This morning I have been able to experience what I hope to be one of many exhilarating and enlightening conclusions to the stand many magnet and non-magnet parents have
taken for a fair and equitable decree over the last 3 months.

In the Gretna #2 auditorium a group of teachers, administrators and parents sat together to discuss how best to serve students who strive for excellence and whose parents and guardians expect no less. Much of the apprehension, rumor, insinuation and doubt associated with creating an equitable magnet system that would serve the needs of all children was laid to rest as teachers and administrators came to realize as one teacher put it, "we are more alike than different".

The Westbank and Eastbank of Jefferson Parish each have a responsibility to educate its children. In the meeting this morning we have come to realize that this task is better served through open lines of communication, openly sharing ideas and resources, open strategies for study skills and test preparation and open dialog between our administrators and parents.

Textbooks and literature, conferences and seminars, web-links, across curriculum development and parental involvement were among the topics discussed and considered essential to improving student instruction, comprehension and performance at both Metairie Academy and Gretna #2. These topics have always been the charge of these instructors and part of the magnet programs but this morning they potentially have become greater strengths in a system that should set the standard for all of Jefferson Parish schools and their curriculum development.

The challenge still remains for our justice system to see that our children are best serve by an educational system that remains competitive, sharing triumphs and tribulations, reaching goals and setting records while acting in a unitary, desegregated, open and cooperative fashion. This most certainly serves the spirit and letter of the decree without creating a segregated, bipartite, bimodal or duel school system that using the river as the excuse would create. had certainly come this May 29th, 2008 morning!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A bitter-sweet end should not end bitter.

It has saddened me to see how the consent decree has effected the students at the end of the school year. Many students unaffected by this decree have now realized that the typical summertime well wishings have been tempered by that possibility of not seeing one another in the classroom again. The article from the Times-Picayune illustrated this effect as thousands of children and thousands more of their friends and associates can no longer work together, play together and strive together for academic excellence and share in their success.

There are many thousands of JP school children. Some have paid little attention to what has transpired this past year. Next year they will become fully aware and may cry out in despair for their lost mates. Some may ask why, and be confused over the answer. Some may fear that it will happen to them next year. Some may leave the school system as the article described just because it just seemed unfair. Along with these types of questions and concerns the apprehension, uneasiness, paranoia and fear will become evident. Trust and commitment will remain elusive for a time and the sad part is our children's education may be adversely effected.

Segregation is wrong, as history has detailed. Preferences can be abused even though necessary to bring about a fighting chance for some. Ethnic imbalance is a consequence of the human condition...that of self-preservation, cultural cohesiveness and control. The lack of balance is a self perpetuating consequence of the human condition and can not be corrected by the orders of JPSB, Dr. Roussell, Mr. Carter or Judge Engelhardt. We may realize this in time.

Academic excellence like all things in life is also a result of the human condition. What we value is where we put our resources, spend our time and protect with our lives. Regardless of your re-districting, whether you ride the bus or not, are a Westbanker or Eastbanker, White or Black, rich or poor, our children learn from their parents or guardians what to value, where to pour resources and time and what defines a successful life. To some it is family, to many it is work or career, to others it may be material possessions, and to still others it may be religion. Let all parents and guardians agree to value their children's education from this point on. This is the only way for the majority of these children to make the best decisions for their lives and become successful in the Jefferson Parish School System, in greater New Orleans, in this country and the world, in the sight of God.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My letter to the Judge

Light lines = % White Students/district
Darker lines = % Black Students/district

We have been asked to write letters to the Judged before the Fairness Hearing scheduled for May 15th, 2008. This is my short address:

Dear Honorable Judge Englehardt,

This is Marion “John Wayne” Carroll. I welcome the opportunity to briefly address you again. My colleagues and I have discussed and agreed that in the name of desegregation the issue of separating the parish by the river as well as aggregating data based on a duel educational system is unfair to many of the residents of Jefferson Parish with school aged children. Having the issue with Magnet Schools somewhat tempered now, we have been able to see that schools other than Magnet or specialty schools may also suffer ill effects by encouraging the longstanding belief that the Westbank is inferior to the Eastbank. My colleagues have presented data regarding the academic performance of students, the racial demographics and economic disparity that persists between Eastbank and Westbank education often as a result of school board decisions. A separate system would serve only to “unfairly” perpetuate this disparity by increasing the disregard for educational issues that are important to Westbank citizens, i.e., secured campuses, extracurricular activities, dedicated and committed faculty and staff. The recent decision by the board to spend over 10 times more money improving Eastbank facilities proves to many parents on the Westbank that creating a duel system is STILL segregation at work.

Regarding the issue of segregation, I present the graph above to illustrate the proposed divisions of the districts in answer to the desegregation order. You questioned at the last fairness hearing the reasons for targeting all schools rather than racially identifiable ones. The answer was unclear. In their proposed sweeping redistribution and division of the parish there is little difference evident after the changes in any district between the number of White and Black students. What does this mean? Why spend all this energy moving students when real change is needed in improving facilities, supporting teachers and securing our campuses.

What is the solution? It is undeniable that people feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings. Forced desegregation does not help students nor their parents overcome this feeling nor comply with the order as history has shown. But giving people the CHOICE, working with the board and within the communities and being honest with intentions will ultimately bring us together for the common good of our children’s education and future success.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Here we go us Albert!

Regarding the consent order, if the judge has authored parts then we can call it quits and think about working together for a better Jefferson School System.

In 2002, data freely available at, among Louisiana Public Schools, Rudolph Matas was the only elementary school in Jefferson Parish ranked within the top 50 schools in Louisiana at number 14....the next was Airline Park at 64. Among the middle schools, Alfred Bonnabel was ranked at number 3, no other in the top 100, and Grace King High School was ranked at 25 with Bonnabel following at 51. Our comparable district, Orleans, at least did rank two schools better than Jefferson at the middle and high school levels. Each school accept Bonnabel are, according to the JPSS's standards, racially identifiable white.

Why do I point this out? Well, Jefferson Parish is arguably one of the most metropolitan, progressive and economically sound leaders (AA- credit rating) within the State of Louisiana yet we can not educate our children to qualify to be among the top twenty ranks of Bossier, St. Landry, Lafayette, East Baton Rouge, St. Tammany, Calcasieu, Caddo, Catahoula, Rapides, Tangipahoa, LaSalle, Vermilion and Ouachita Parishes. Some places of which I have no idea of their location, save for googlemaps.

Ok...see my point yet?...Let me spell it out.

To the JPSS, their lawyers, the parents (both for and against this "Final" consent order), by-standers, anyone thinking of moving to Louisiana...listen-up. We have a moral responsibility to educate our children and a fiscal responsibility to provide taxpayers with the best their (our) money can provide. The system may have to be turned on its head for this to happen.

If our schools rank among the bottom 150 in the state then salaries and benefits should also rank accordingly. If our teachers are clamoring to get into the best schools then maybe as a matter of course they should spend 3-5 years contributing and being accountable for improving some of our worst schools qualification to advance to the better schools. If our administrators on the board and elsewhere wish to make a name for themselves leading metropolitan school districts then they should shadow board members of more academically advanced districts to experience the interaction between these members and their community. They will probably experience more patience and cooperation and less name call. If parents expect their schools to mold their children into great thinkers then parents need to be involved in the molding process at home (and at the school). If you find your conditions less than ideal for educating your child then your involvement must be greater than ideal. As for the lawyers, I have a quote from Albert Einstein: "Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” It's their job...they could care less about any outcome but their win/lost statistics.

I was told when I was younger another of Einstein's familiar saying, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results". Necessary change is painful. It often requires sacrifice, overcoming fear and being unpopular. These are some of the challenges to change that face our leadership. If our leaders wishes not to rise to these challenges then failure will follow as it has for so many others in our community and we all "consent" to change nothing.

To the kids, listen to Albert:

“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Sqeaky Wheel...Carroll for District 1.1!

It was never said that this old adage could backfire. We got the grease but I think the JPSB used most of it to oil up the shaft they've decided to give to the "commuting" parents of the Westbank. We all know that few parents, except out of necessity, are fussin' and fightin' to go to schools on the Westbank as oppose to those on the Eastbank of Jefferson Parish. The very reason many of us Westbankers go to the the Eastbank is because of our jobs and for the better public schools in this part of the parish. Why has there not been parity in the parish's school infrastructure to begin with? Was it the lack of need, the lack of population (and/or quality) of students/teachers, our JPSB representation, money? Only recently has the JPSB offered good alternatives on the Westbank...and now just a couple of years out of the gate we will be forced to get out of the Eastbank schools and send out our children to schools just being built, untried and untested which are (we are being told) at best adequate or becoming better with time. Many have already been there and done that with their children's education in the balance. They don't want to do it again.

Hear this!, segregation has consequences, and those consequences will not go away overnight! This is why the races still fight. There will never be equity until it becomes the responsibility of the individual, that is, self imposed equality. As long as there is a Power that stands and declares "It will be thus and so..." equality will never be reached. The objective of the Powerful is to have it and keep it so everyone else is made equitable, but the Powerful. The Magnet Schools have provided the means since the early 70s to enable parents who deliberately, although in some cases reluctantly, understand the landscape of our country and want to provide their children the opportunity they themselves may not have be successful in an integrated world. There are many races that MUST be tolerated at the very least but must be invited in the best sense to participate in our lives and livelihood. The pristine whitewashed halls of the elite "majority" are no longer attractive to corporations, industries, small businesses and advertisers. To the degree that SINCERE interaction with different people is made, a measure of success and longevity can be expected in business.

In other words back in the "good ole days"..."white was right" but today white might put you $120,000.00 in the hole and demand more money with nothing to show but empty promises. But hey, why should I care...I've been to the private schools...they would be happy to have me again...only this time with our Govenor's voucher in my hand.

On another note, the board plans to work with parents in November to ensure equal playing fields on the East and Westbanks. We have been working our tails off already. Has our board acknowledged any of our input so far? You tell me?

Finally, if we are to have a "Bimodal School System" then I strongly urge parents to consider fighting for a "Bimodal School Board"! I'm running for District 1.1!


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

If it is not clear to you let me draw you a map...

Justice Henry Brown wrote that the law "separate but equal" did not "stamp the colored race with a badge of inferiority" and that any such suggestion is "solely because the colored race chooses to place that construct on it." If you segregate the west and east banks are we on the Westbank constructing a perception that the Westbank is being treated as inferior or is our perception real? I think Judge Engelhardt was as clear in his “Order of Clarification of Judgment” as Justice Brown was wrong in his assertion that the colored race was responsible for its own inequities and oppression.

In the guise of doing what is right the JPSB is not only perpetuating the same misguidance as Justice Brown but is unwittingly catering to the same deep seeded notion that black students and white students should remain separate. Why do I say this, well the Westbank percent ratio is 70:30 and the Eastbank is 44:55, Black to White students, respectively (according to the school boards suspicious numbers).

There is no suggestion here by the board that black children and white children should remain separate, but closing the Eastbank to the Westbank are slightly different spots that can be found on the same animal.

Dubois and Carver expressed opposing opinions about the disposition of the races. The first believe that complete and total integration of black and white races insured the equal and fair treatment of all individuals within society. The latter believe that separating the races ensured the preservation of culture and dignity within the powerless while allowing work to continue to bridge the gaps between the races, independently. The answer is between these extremes. Mandates and laws should not determine were our students go to school. To create a just society much like a marriage…there must be mutual and willing agreement and action. If only one group exercises all its the power and advantage without compromise, were is the justice … where is the society?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Lets complete this process and depart friends!

SCHOOL BOARD MEETING APRIL 9th and 16th 2008, at 5 PM presumably, Bonnabel High School..come out!

"Shock and awe"

My initial reaction to the letter I received in early March regarding the disposition of my child entering her 4th grade year in September 2008..."shocked and awed!" I was in shock because as a private school graduate and now the parent of private school children, to get SENT to another school was usually the result of uncontrollable violence or insolence on the part of the child (or parent) on school property. I could not recall my daughter ever being violent so I thought well maybe it was me. During my inquiry folks assured me it was nothing I did but that a inexplicable decision to remove Westbank students to schools on the Westbank was passed down from the powers on high and so I'd better make plans to make adjustments for the Fall.

Thinking there was nothing I could do just like the guilty parent of private school children I thought to myself how can I fix this for my daughter. She has to know this was not her fault. Yes, she wanted to go to the private school her brother went to from 2nd to 8th grade with the pool and farm and cool field trips but we just couldn't afford that any more. Then it accured to me...I'm in a school that should not be doing this. Her grades were good, her behavior impeccable so why did she have to go?...because she lived on the wrong side of the tracks or river in this case. That can't be right. It wasn't right and should never be. So I learned I was not alone in that feeling and we sought together to find out why some thought it was OK.

Civil rights are important. When they are violated then there are consequences. The school board is realizing those consequences where it their back pockets. Those of us under their jurisdiction also suffer those consequences as their back pockets are also our back pockets when it comes to the educational environment of our children. We are eager and willing to join the board in repentance for the sins of our fathers so we all may be forgiven and so we all can move on. This is all we have asked and continue to ask in our many colorful ways.

Remember we were in "shock and awe" as were some of our children. We are use to sitting back watching our children flourish in a private school's educational program raising an eyebrow over a grade or two every once in a while with never a concern about discipline. Well, now the intellect, competitiveness and drive that have made our children who they are have been awakened in the parents who have just realized that we are not in private school anymore and now have to pay with our attention, pay with our voices and pay with our pens (or posts) instead of paying with cash to make sure our children get their money's worth.

We intend not to be "shocked and awed" again...except when our children excel!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Geographical Segregation, The New Divide

When the ruling in the desegregation order first came down, in 1972, it was supposed to lead to the betterment of facilities, curriculum advancement, fair distribution of teacher assignments, and assignment of students to schools by, in effect, forcing the Jefferson Parish school system to do away with the "dual" system in the parish that they had established for African-American students and Caucasian students.

As the plaintiff's attorney (Mr. Gideon Carter) and the school board's attorneys (Mr. Charles Patin and Mr. Jack Grant) attempt to redesign the new Consent Order, after the Federal Court's refusal to sign off on the original, they are essentially, and intentionally, creating another disparity in education: that of geographical segregation. This geographical segregation will in essence prevent the parent of any west bank child (white, minority, magnet, or district school student) from sending their child to a school on the east bank , to a school that may have greater educational opportunities, resources, and hope, to afford their children a better educational background.

How many parents in Jefferson Parish are aware that the school board and the plaintiffs have demanded that many African-American children presently attending majority-white schools on the east bank return to the west bank to attend predominantly-black schools next year? They have called these children "collateral damage".

Is this the new definition of desegregation? Is this what Lena Dandridge originally fought for in 1972? These students and their parents epitomize the rights and opportunities that DANDRIDGE v. JEFFERSON PARISH SCHOOL BOARD afforded all African-American students. To take that away from these children now is to go back in time, when segregation was the norm, when Jefferson Parish was a "dual" system. Instead, the Jefferson Parish school board and the plaintiffs propose and envision another kind of "dual" system, a dual system separated geographically, where the educational opportunities on one side certainly do not equate to the other. Since when is it allowable to substitute one form of segregation for another? Since when is it acceptable to label any child "collateral damage", when your JOB is to consider the educational well-being of all children in your school system?

The attorneys allude to the idea that the parents in Jefferson Parish don't know what is in the best interest of their child. They allege that the parents would not want to drive or otherwise transport their children to a school across the river that may provide opportunities and promise to these children that they might not otherwise receive at their "home" school of record. This is ludicrous.

I believe that a parent, more than any other, certainly more than the attorney, knows and wants what is in the best interest of their children. I elect to drive my child to a school outside of her "home" school zone because it is in her best educational interest. I surmise that there are many other parents with students in the Jefferson Parish school system who feel as I do, and would choose to make the sacrifices necessary in order to provide the best background for their children to succeed in life. How dare they speak for us. How dare they presume to know what is important to us. "Neighborhood" schools notwithstanding, I believe that most of us would choose opportunity over location.

If we allow the Jefferson Parish school board and the plaintiffs to succeed in closing off the east bank to our deserving students on the west bank, we are again allowing segregation to rear its ugly head, just in another form.

Write to the school board members. Let them know, in no uncertain terms, that YOU are the best judge of your childs' needs. Let them know that you are demanding that your children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren, (and all future west bank children) who are in or who will enter the public school system in Jefferson Parish, have access to the best education possible, regardless of which side of the river that it's on. Let them know that you expect the Jefferson Parish school system to uphold the promise in their mission statement:

Our mission is to be an extraordinary school system by building an environment of excellence, effectiveness, and efficiency that supports the success of our students, our communities, and our employees.

Let them know that the success of their students, and the community as a whole should not be contingient upon which side of the river you reside. Let them know that we are Jefferson Parish, not West Jefferson Parish and East Jefferson Parish. Our tax dollars support schools on BOTH sides of the river. Let them know that the future of the education of our children in Jefferson Parish public schools does not belong in the hands of an attorney who is waiting for his next paycheck, who does not know our children and their needs. It belongs in our hands.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Well now, let's get it right!

From Jenny Hurwitz of the TP

Casting aspersions that the Judge "may not have been informed" or "doesn't know the issue with Jefferson Parish" or "my not have all the information" is not the way to win your case. The fact that you've "never loss a Consent Order when both parties agreed" is also mote.

Don't blame the Magnet School parents for speaking out. We are not so arrogant as to believe that we influenced the Dr. Etta Licciardi pointed out..the judge came to his decision long before hearing from us personally.

Never-the-less, parents beware and stay informed. The board asserted to doing things in the order despite the judges ruling so keep your heads up. Grandfathering? far? I want my child to remain a magnet student until she's ready for college!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Let's clear the air...

I was a child of the 60’s and 70’s raised in the Jim Crow south. Ms. Houston is practically my contemporary and I understand her frustration and that of her family during those times. I would have supported her position I do today. We must however do it RIGHT! Significant progress has been made since the 1972 lawsuit. Although there are some who wish to remain in the 60's (refering to the NOLA.COM comments) and despise the portrayal of Magnet School by the media as having gotten our way, communication with all parents on all sides is imperative. If we are divided we will not conquer and the School Board will rule with an iron hand behind closed doors allowing the good we hope for our children to be washed down the Mississippi River.

Jefferson Parish Public Schools...the End of the Beginning!

Our children have suffered long enough. Education is the cornerstone of the world. Whether you were home-schooled or attended the most prestigious boarding schools in the northeast, the objectives and outcomes should be the elimination of ignorance. The recent rejection of the Dandridge v Jefferson Parish School Board Consent Order did not at all have this goal in mind and we appreciate the insight of Judge Kurt Engelhardt.

This is a call to arms! All of Jefferson Parish will suffer unless we take the responsibility of educating our children out of the hands of the system and as reasonably possible become proactive in, not just reactive to, the decisions that effect the lives of our children and their attempts to eliminate the ignorance that separates and segregates our community.