Superintendent Bernard Taylor urged a luncheon audience on Friday to press state leaders to give East Baton Rouge Parish public schools enough time and space to implement changes to improve education for children in the parish.
Taylor said he’s concerned that the multitude of changes pushed by the state make it hard for the school system to plan financially and to have the resources necessary to make its own change plans work.
“With reform being defined this way, you create a huge amount of instability,” Taylor said.
Speaking at Juban’s Restaurant in Baton Rouge, Taylor updated the audience of community and business leaders brought together by the group Volunteers In Public Schools on his proposed changes.
He talked again about his idea, first announced in November, to replace school attendance zones in four parts of Baton Rouge with “attendance regions” and creating more educational choices for parents in those areas. Taylor, however, gave no more specifics at his talk Friday, though he is expected to do so at a series of upcoming community forums.
Taylor is describing his proposals as a “framework for discussion,” meaning they are still subject to change depending on the feedback he’s receiving from people in the affected communities starting at forums held in November and continuing at a second round of forums planned over the next three weeks.
“The feedback we got is, ‘That’s interesting, let’s hear more,’ ” Taylor said.
Taylor, however, warned that opposition will likely grow as the school system nears making decisions.
“People love reform until it happens to them,” he said.
Here is the forum schedule:
- Capitol Elementary, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
- Glen Oaks High, 6 p.m. Thursday.
- Scotlandville High, 6 p.m. Jan. 31.
- Southeast Middle, 6 p.m. Feb. 5.
What Taylor has laid out so far affects 36 schools in four sections of the parish. What will be on these four different regional menus is unclear.
Taylor has suggested converting a handful of schools to magnet schools and others to “grade centers” that every child in a given grade and in a given region would be assigned to, unless they choose one of the other school options. Each set of grade centers is being described as a “family of schools.”
Taylor said schools will have to compete with each other for students and will need to pay more attention to marketing and customer service. It’s a shift from having a set attendance zone where the students are assigned to a school based on geography, he said.
“If you have a captive audience, you may not rise to the needs of our customers,” he said.
Seven of the affected schools are part of the state-run Recovery School District and the state is seeking charter school management organizations to run them.
A recent agreement between RSD and the parish school system gives the latter a role in selecting which groups form charter schools.
Taylor has said he wants these new charter schools to reflect the desires of the communities they are situated in. On Friday, Taylor went further and said that the schools that come in should fit in with the approach of the other public schools in those areas so as not to produce “islands of isolation.”
“Charter schools, if they are to be part of our menu, they have to complement what those children have been experiencing,” he said.
Taylor said that traditional teaching and school design will need to change to make better use of technology.
He said school libraries may need to look more like “Apple stores.” He said that “blended learning,” where students receive some of their instruction in a traditional classroom and some online, will change teaching and may provoke a need for new teachers who can adapt to the new ways.