Thanks to the Gambit's newest reporter Charles Maldonado, I was able to check out from home the Recovery School District's presentation to the city council on its efforts to get more community involvement and input into the workings of its schools.
If anything was to be learned from this bit of political theater, it was at least two things:
- Nothing in recent memory illustrated how detached the workings of the city's schools have become from the day-to-day of city council business, from the cluelessness of Stacy Head on where early childhood education funding (specifically for pre-K3-and-4 programs) has gone (down the toilet) to the queries of councilman Jon Johnson demanding RSD superintendent John White give him clues as to what is happening with specific school sites in the Lower Ninth Ward - queries that couldn't possibly have been addressed that morning. White repeatedly directed councilmembers and public commenters to the many public meetings that were forthcoming to have their concerns addressed in more detail. Giving everybody only a minute to speak will do that.
- Then again, it wasn't like only having a minute to speak discouraged those who wanted to be heard (for the determined, it never really does). Recurrent themes in the comment period were all from African-Americans wondering how much more the destruction of their heritage in relation to local education could take. People at the podium raised issues from the possible renaming of L.B. Landry High on the west bank ("What did we do to deserve this?") to the contentiousness of school admissions to the mass firing of a mostly black public school teaching pool shortly after 8/29/2005 vs. the current predominantly white makeup of the RSD's current teaching pool to a plea for control of the public schools to return to the city. Judging from the few comments that were heard, community involvement still has a ways to go.
One unfortunate sidebar to yesterday's events was BESE District 2 board member Louella Givens' appearance at the presentation. It was noted that, though Jackie Clarkson couldn't be in attendance for the RSD presentation, councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell - who kept the presentation and the comment period moving along in Clarkson's stead - had invited Givens to be present. That fact alone, along with some asides from Givens during the presentation, made Givens look more like a stepchild of local public education rather than a leader. Though I admire her being the only one on the state board to speak out against blanket charterization, her appearance in council chambers and her press conference later on in the day didn't exactly cement a higher position for her in the upcoming BESE District 2 runoff elections.