At a recent meeting of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board strategic planning committee, I was shocked to find local subcommittees headed by representatives from the Louisiana Department of Education, as well as other special-interest organizations. The ideas advocated by people who chair these subcommittees represent their special interests, not the interests of the Baton Rouge community at large. I can’t stand by and let the significance of these assignments go unnoticed.
Why do Teach for America, the state Department of Education and the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools have such a prominent voice in the strategic planning for OUR local schools? Why is the state micromanaging OUR local School Board?
East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member David Tatman routinely says the committee wants “community input.” Unfortunately, most hardworking citizens can’t always attend these meetings, so they rely on the committee members to speak on their behalf using the data collected from the community focus groups this past spring. This data is not reflected in the subcommittees’ make-up or plans.
We must ask, whose committee is this?
Dedicated local educators and parents know, better than anyone else, what’s needed to improve our schools. They’ll be around long after these flash-in-the-pan bureaucrats move on to another issue.
The public needs to recognize that the people who chair some subcommittees are headed by state special interests: former TFAer Chris Meyer, DOE special adviser to former state Superintendent Paul Pastorek; Michael Tipton, a TFA executive director; and the legal director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, Kimberly Williams. Were these individuals handpicked?
We must ask, where’s the public input in our public schools’ strategic planning?
The only group listing Teach For America as a sign of strength, and tenure as one of weakness, is the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, not the local parents and teachers. Is this micromanagement by BRAC connected to the more than $2 million in contracts the state holds with TFA? Unlike professional certified teachers, TFAers jump in with only five weeks of training. Most never make it past a second year, shortly after their student loans have been forgiven by their TFA work.
We must ask, what’s best for our children, our future?
Updates on the process at School Board meetings have simply stated the schedule and status of committee meetings, not who is doing the work and what ideas they are pushing. Why is there such a lack of transparency?
We must ask, where is the public in this “public” strategic planning process for our local schools?
DONNA SEDEVIE, president
East Baton Rouge Parish Association of Educators
member, Coalition for Louisiana Public Education