Lafayette Parish’s two education watchdog groups are gearing up for new priorities focused on improving opportunities and outcomes for the public education system and its students.
Leaders of the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council and Power of Public Education Lafayette said they’ll meet with their membership in the coming weeks and set their strategy for 2015, a year bringing a new school board and a probable search for a new superintendent.
Both groups have worked to raise awareness about education issues in Lafayette and in the past year launched forums focused on issues impacting public education.
“Bringing that awareness to the public and keeping education front and center is important to getting the community behind the need to improve,” said Jay Jackson, the incoming chairman of Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council. Jackson retired in late 2013 from his position as president and CEO of Stuller Inc.
The Power of Public Education Lafayette formed about a year ago following an effort to prevent private charter school management companies from opening schools in Lafayette Parish.
Despite the opposition and the Lafayette Parish School Board’s own denial of charter school applications in 2013, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved applications for two charter companies to open schools in Lafayette.
In August, three schools opened and another is planned to open this coming August with a charter high school planned by 2017.
Look for PPEL to continue its advocacy for oversight of charter schools during the upcoming legislative session, said Toby Daspit, the group’s president and an associate professor of educational curriculum and instruction at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
State law requires school districts to advertise annually for charter school applications, and Daspit said his group wants to see the local School Board create a policy that sets guidelines for that application process.
“We’d like to see a comprehensive policy for charter schools,” Daspit said.
Daspit said the group’s advisory council will help set the priorities to target in the upcoming session and calendar year. The council includes K-12 and university educators, as well as students and community activists.
Public forums on educational issues will also continue in 2015 with PPEL holding its first forum of 2015 focused on testing and the impact on students and instructional time.
LaPESC formed a few years ago and now has about 13 organizations among its membership, such as the 100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette and the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce.
For the 2010 and 2014 School Board elections, LaPESC organized School Board candidate forums. Leading up to the 2014 fall election, the group organized community meetings to gather feedback on educational issues to create the Common Vision for Our Future plan, which focuses primarily on school board governance, facilities and recommendations included in the school system’s 100 Percent In, 100 Percent Out plan. Jackson said the Common Vision plan deliberately did not focus on divisive issues such as the Common Core or charter schools.
“Even internally, we don’t 100 percent agree on those issues,” Jackson said. “We don’t want to tell the school system how to do things. We are demanding that they be accountable for the results, and that’s graduating kids that are prepared to go onto the next chapter of their lives — either going onto college or going into a career.”
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.