The idea that any successful enterprise, whether it’s a business, a nonprofit, or even a governmental body such as a school system, requires a bedrock of shared core beliefs and commitments is not new. Our country itself was founded on a set of core beliefs, and the preamble to the Constitution also presents a clear statement of purpose: “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty. …” Despite our internal struggles over 250 years of history, these core beliefs have stood the test of time and held us together for the common good.
The core beliefs contained in the Common Vision for the Lafayette Parish public school system are not as powerful and lofty as those expressed during the founding of our country, but they will have a significant impact on the future of our community and the lives of our children long into the future. Louisiana has ranked at the bottom of the states in education for as long as I can remember. Einstein wrote that “we can’t solve the problems of today with the same level of thinking we used when we created them.” There is a strong case for change, but it will not happen unless the community expresses a strong dissatisfaction with the status quo.
According to one estimate, 24 percent of the adult population of the Lafayette area cannot read above the fifth-grade level, almost 30 percent of our children fail to graduate from high school, and close to 50 percent of those who graduate and desire to attend college must take remedial courses in math or English in order to engage in college-level work. Eleven of our public schools are rated D or F. A significant achievement gap of as much as 30 percentage points exists between white and African-American students and students from low-income families. We are not just dissatisfied with this status quo; we believe it is unacceptable.
To reform the status quo and achieve positive results will require a set of commonly shared fundamental beliefs to guide the actions of decision makers. It will require a deep and abiding commitment to these beliefs. Without this commitment, LPSS will lack the constancy of purpose and emotional strength necessary to create the exceptional education system we want for our children.
When you hear them or read about them in the coming days, these beliefs may sound like the “impossible dream,” but there is sufficient evidence to persuade us that with time, focused attention and use of resources, they are achievable. You can learn more about these beliefs at commonvision lafayette.org.
education chairman, Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce