Saturday, January 31, 2009

Just for my record!

These are the words that I had for Judge Engelhardt and the court at the Fairness Hearing on Thursday January 29th. It seems that the battle is still ensuing given the order released by the court after the attorneys (represented by Charles Patin) have (and I will be kind) "mis-stated" to the public the orders by the court concerning the separation of the parish by the river:

Having been involved in this process from the beginning I am very impressed with the progress the school board and their attorneys have made to address the concerns in the lawsuit and the those of parents in an effort to secure unitary status. We all have learned a lot about the school board, the school districts, curriculum and each other.

This process however is not about us, it’s about our children and the equitable utilization of our tax dollars to encourage and provide the best educational opportunities for them. We have also learned that in some respects education is a business and like a business it needs to be financially sound, legally compliant and consumer friendly. And so like a business limiting the consumer base is not expedient. Segregation served to legally allow isolation, restriction, denial of service and stigmatization that is still felt in many communities today. Freedom of choice is an inalienable right that we all share. It is the most outstanding attraction to becoming an American citizen. No one can come to this republic and be denied opportunity because of who they are or where they come from as long as they remain compliant to the laws of this land.

I submitted to your honor in a letter the things I wanted to say regarding the bridge closure and parish wide access. I simply wanted to remind the court that all or our freedoms are inexplicably linked and efforts to limit the freedoms of one group will ultimately encroach upon the freedoms of another.

Let’s continued the good work that was started over a year ago and that is nearly completed today. Better schools, better teachers, better administrators and staff, better parents, better guardians, better children for better communities for everyone.

Friday, January 30, 2009

"...the ugly specter of racial inequality... I like that!

Mrs. Nicole Edler addressed Judge Engelhardt with this excellent and compelling treatise on the need to really care about the attorney's efforts to divide the parish. I was there, you would have been proud:

Good Morning,Your Honor:

I applaud this court in its attempt to put an end to the ugly specter of racial inequality and segregation in our schools. However, racial demographic documentation presented to this court has shown that the Jefferson Parish School Board and the plaintiffs have crafted a plan that will in fact lead to resegregation and further isolationism of black and white students in Jefferson Parish. As Dr. Roussel affirmed to this court on Dec. 14th, 75% of minority students in Jefferson Parish reside on the west bank. Only 25% of African American students reside on the east bank. “Assigning” students to a magnet school on the side of the river of their residence will advance segregation and geographical discrimination of the west bank and the students that reside there. This suggests an attempt by the litigants in this case to reinstitute a dual system, a system which this court has attempted to abolish for over 40 years.

The supportive documentation confirms that the east bank’s court-approved ratio of black to white students (+/- 15%) is significantly lower than the black/white percentage range declared acceptable by this court for the west bank. The disparity is evidenced by the differences in the housing patterns on the west bank, which is more racially diverse, less affluent and more African-American.

However, as they proclaimed in 1971, the Jefferson Parish School Board once again contends that the disparity in the races and the separation of the parish by the river is an inevitable “product of voluntary housing patterns”, a justification which was not accepted by the court in 1972 as an excuse to promote racism, and one which should not be accepted today by this court. The school board seeks permission by this court to “assign” students to magnet schools where the student population on one side of the river may be disproportionately of one race, while ignoring the racial implications and consequences therein. This flies in the face of desegregation, and circumvents the intent of this court and our constitution.

Swann v. Mecklenburg placed the burden on school authorities to show that one race schools are "genuinely nondiscriminatory." Closing the river to crossing magnet students will, in fact, risk the eventual return of “one-race” magnet schools. Allowing students to access magnet schools on both sides of the river encourages racial, socio-economic, religious, and cultural diversity in our magnet schools. In 1971, the district court found that the only evidence presented by the School Board to justify the presence of 19 one race schools "was an allusion to housing patterns." Today, the school board would have this court separate the parish by the river and thus “assign” students to a magnet school based on their geographical residency. What the school board fails to publically acknowledge is that, in conceding that most African-American students reside on the west bank, and would therefore be “assigned” to west bank magnet schools, they are, in fact, intentionally or not, promoting segregation, while attempting to use the Mississippi River as a dividing rod. Forty years later, it still smacks of racism. Just because it may not be spelled out clearly or outwardly spoken, it does not mean that the intent is lost on the public. Our constitution does not allow us to turn a blind eye to racism, be it overt or subtle. It does not allow us to claim ignorance of its existence.

Your Honor: Magnet schools promote natural desegregation, which is the justified and noble objective of this court. Please do not allow the Jefferson Parish School Board to “assign” students to our magnet schools, thereby limiting and/or suppressing desegregation. Please do not allow them to separate our school system by the Mississippi River, which will most certainly attempt to circumvent the honorable intent of the 14th Amendment to our constitution. The magnet school plan, in its current form, is patently unfair.

Brown v. Board of Education stated that: “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”. The courts did not agree that educational facilities should be “substantially equal to the extent feasible”, as the school board has suggested. We are one parish. It is time that we started behaving like one. It is time to end the dual system.

Thank you.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

So let's play the game...AGAIN!

I was under the impression that the objective of the Jefferson Parish attorneys and school board officials was to have Jefferson Parish Public School system to become unitary. A year ago they were willing to sacrifice a few students by removing them from their present magnet school to attend "God knows what" school just not the school on the opposite side of their residence. Today Judge Engelhardt declared to the attorneys that their efforts working with the school board and parents may have paid off and the public schools in Jefferson will come under School Board control very soon!

There however is one sticky part. The Judge said that there was no reason to order the Mississippi River be set as a dividing line within the parish. Separating the parish by the river is akin to "creating a binary system" which is contrary to the consent order designed to eliminate segregation within the parish and create a unitary system. It was clear to all present, particularly Mrs. Mathis, Assistant to the Superintendant, that such an action was counter productive and that if a parent wishes to send their child to a school on the opposite side of the river from their residence they would be allow provide that parent understand that transportation would only be provide from their home to the nearest Magnet School. How hard is that to understand!!

Well attorneys are still singing that same song and dancing the same dance they did a year ago and I hope they are justifiably reprimanded. Parents are making plans to sent their children to a good school, but due to recent misrepresentation of this latest order some are still uncertain.

I beg of the school board and attorneys lay down your arms. You have presented the evidence in court yourself. Only about 50 or 60 students have been attending Magnet schools on the opposite side of the river from their residence. It has been 6 years since these schools have been opened. This can hardly be described as an effort by parents to "resegregate" themselves...a genuine fear expressed by the attorneys. Remember, approximately 20 of these students are Black.

Let this be the last word...until the next school board meeting:

"Space permitting, a student’s parent will be afforded an election to choose the elementary advanced studies academy in which to enroll his/her child. The school system will provide transportation where a student is enrolled in the elementary advanced studies academy in closest proximity to the home of the student’s parent or guardian."

So ordered, Judge Kurt Engelhardt

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Students who fall short would be transferred (Expelled?)

NOLA's TP reporter Barri Bronston reports that JP Board member Judy Colgan proposed that "students making lower grades (in the Magnet program) would be better served at conventional schools, where they could take honors courses in their stronger subjects". She also is "asking the board to forbid advanced studies students to return to their current school if they make a D or F in a core subject at the end of the first semester".

There may be a different "Procedures and Policies for Parents and Students" guide in Jefferson Parish than the one I have for 2008 - 2009. If not then the one I have is applicable to all public schools. In this document I read an extensive list of procedures and policy that MAY result in suspension and expulsion which include, willful disobedience, disrespect of a teacher or administrator, profane language, immoral or vicious practices, leaving school without permission, traffic violations, interference with orderly conduct, bomb threats, possession of electronic communication devices, damage or vandalism of school property, carrying weapons, possessing legal drugs, possessing illegal drugs, a felony conviction...

Each of these offenses depending on its seriousness may accumulate to the 3rd offense, is subject to a review and mitigation within the school, can result in 3 days to 4 semester suspensions in the most serious cases. None require a transfer!

Jefferson Parish Schools are suppose to be designed to provide the facilities, qualified personnel and the necessary feedback that indicates to the students, parents and themselves that progress is being made in meeting educational expectations. Maybe this is the reason for the proposal but in my opinion earning a D or F does not fit in the list of disciplinary infractions. It certainly does not warrant the gravest of all consequences...EXPULSION!

Students want education to enable them to the be the best people that they can be and become. Parents want this same educational goal for their children. The Jefferson Parish Public School System is committed to working with parents and students to fulfill each of their goals. The procedures and policies in this pamphlet are designed to create an atmosphere conducive to each student's being and becoming the very best he/she can be.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The wheels on the bus go round and round...

We just knew it was over! Yes, many of us were pleased with the consent order, except for segregating the parish by the Mississippi River, the potential loss of special programs at Hazel Park and the redistricting of some students in the Hazel Park area. This however did not seem to contribute to the Judge's denial of this iteration of the order to be reviewed again in 120 days. The over arching objective of this recent submission (as with the entire consent order) was to lower the number of segregated schools. It seems during this most recent redistricting no schools resulted in being desegregated with one potentially becoming racially identifiable. A death blow to a desegregation order.

I have to say to those involved who read this...if only the Magnet Schools had been left alone as was originally thought, Jefferson Parish Public Schools might have become unitary by now!