Linkage to G-Bitch's notes on The State of Public Education in New Orleans meeting and panel discussion is here.
Like I said, I was late, too, to the meeting, so I too missed Cowen and Pastorek making their opening remarks. I missed the excuses made for Recovery School District superintendent Paul Vallas' absence from the meeting (turned out those excuses were pretty empty - t'anks, Jeffrey). I perused some of the literature handed out to attendees, which included the Cowan Institute's report on the state of the city's public schools and a short schedule of events for the night and plunked myself down towards the front.
So we've got the following people involved in this whole scheme to transform the public schools from being "someone else's schools", as Matt Candler of New Schools for New Orleans put it.:
The Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives
Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans
Urban League of New Orleans
Business Council of Greater New Orleans and the River Region (which is apparently a letter-writing arm of the Citizens for 1 Greater N.O.)
First off, I'm glad all these people are coming together in the name of our children. I'm glad, as panelist and former New Orleans Science & Math High School principal Barbara MacPhee said, these folks recognized that "we had an adult problem" all these years before the storm.
Problem is, we have a different version of an adult problem these days. These organizations have come together to embark on what is supposed to be "the beginning of a more candid dialogue about the schools", but where were most of the representatives from those same schools they were talking about? Where were the parents? Ben Franklin Elementary principal Charlotte Matthew told Paul Pastorek a "coordination of resources" needs to get going between the schools in the three different systems operating here. It might have been nice to encourage more representatives from each school in the system to come and help get that coordination started - perhaps a later start time to the meeting might have done the trick.
There was much more agreement last night on the fact that the adults couldn't go back to the way things had been. The Orleans Parish School Board must not be allowed to be in charge of all the public schools again. Nobody is fully agreed on the particulars of how to move forward, however, aside from hiring and keeping quality teachers, setting up accountability structures for both teachers and parents, and eliminating de facto economic and racial segregation. Pastorek himself said the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has only recently embarked upon research into what is making schools across the state work (supposedly, two "research enterprises" are embarking upon this task. Wish 'em luck, 'cause they'll need it) and he claims that there are 21 schools in the state that have a high-minority, high-poverty student body that are also high performing schools. Paul, man, what makes those schools work? Isn't there enough data that your people can start sharing what works with the people in this area, or are we still too broken to really benefit yet?
Some questions of note from the audience:
How can area museums, the zoo and aquarium, and other organizations with educational programs outside of the school environment better support the teachers? Their participation in educational workshops offered by, for example, the D-Day Museum, has been low. How can they increase it?
How can parents be encouraged to participate?
If the parents aren't participating, how can they be held accountable?
Can Head Start-type programs be integrated into the schools?
From a 2nd Grade student at Green Charter School: How much money have you been saving over the years?
Will Act 175 be fully implemented into the schools?
One important statement from an attendee that was passed over by the panel:
I can tell you, Frederick Douglass (High School) isn't like what the panel is talking about.
Answers to the above questions will be posted by me later, unless everybody answers them for me in the comments.
Hey, they are adult problems, after all.