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.