This is a time of opportunity and obligation for Jefferson Parish Public Schools. As Louisiana’s largest school system, we should take the lead in reshaping our future while honoring our past.
We have a newly elected school board that, I believe, will govern with wise deliberation, an ethic of care, prudence and honor. The members have committed to leading with distinction, professionalism and an expectation of excellence for us to watch and follow. We have brilliant and talented employees committed to using their passion, vision and courage to re-imagine what our system can be for students. Finally, we have an amazing tapestry of smart, thoughtful and ambitious students who cannot be found anywhere in Louisiana, and they’re ready to make their mark.
Soon, we will unveil a strategic plan serving as both our destination and journey to become a more successful, responsive school system. Over the last year, we examined data points, held hundreds of stakeholder meetings, solicited feedback in countless ways and researched best practices in education throughout our country. We gained clarity on important areas we need to focus on, goals we need to meet and specific actions to get us there. Hopefully, a majority of Jefferson Parish stakeholders will help us implement the plan and get the outcomes our students deserve.
Collectively, our school system is getting better each day. The positive differences from last year alone are significant. We are using a more rigorous curriculum, having meaningful professional learning among school staff and focusing on student work in all we do. We are doing the right things; there are just so many right things to do.
We need stronger academic outcomes for kids in Jefferson Parish. As a Louisianian, that’s why I’m in the fight — it’s a battle for our kids and our future. Like you, I want our students to get the education they deserve to succeed in life and make our world a better place. When they succeed, we all succeed.
We have barriers preventing the system from reaching its maximum potential. Some barriers are simple and inexpensive to correct — like setting high expectations and believing all our kids can learn, grow and contribute. Some are more complicated and expensive — like ensuring we hire, grow and keep the workforce necessary to improve outcomes. But whether the challenge is small or large, we must overcome. Our students depend on us.
Kids who don’t enter school “kindergarten-ready” lack basic skills to succeed once they arrive and are less likely to read on grade level by third grade. Kids who aren’t proficient readers by the end of third grade are three times more likely to not graduate high school. Approximately 80 percent of incarcerated men are high school dropouts. The cycle is both certain and damning without thoughtful, bold intervention from school systems and communities that demand the cycle be broken.
We’re making a choice to be different — a choice to be Jefferson on the rise. But we can’t do it alone. Success requires a combination of efforts. We need everyone to demand this cycle be broken. Let’s not be hopes unfulfilled or talents wasted. Let’s not throw rocks and hide our hand. Instead, let’s be a system that loves, learns and leads. Let’s offer solutions and resources — such as time — to help our kids. Let’s be a place where students get the education they deserve to succeed in life and make our world a better place. Let’s take advantage of our opportunity and accomplish our obligation.
Cade Brumley is superintendent of the Jefferson Parish public school system.