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 Survey..my responses…

Staffing:

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.

Curriculum:

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.

Principals:

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

Sports:

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.

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