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Oh let’s do be consistent in policy! - Wednesday, January 18, 2012

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Oh let’s do be consistent in policy!


The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, today, was torn by hypocrisy voting to waive policy in the naming of a new Recovery School District (RSD) superintendent, but voting to ignore more than 50 percent of stakeholders in one of the few successful RSD charters request to be returned to the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB).


Patrick Doberd we elevated to the post of RSD Superintendent with only Lottie Beebe voting to reject.

The Martin Berhman Elementary Charter, a member of the Algiers Charter School Association (ACSA) and an RSD charter posed the dilemma of having med all academic requirements of being deemed successful, having obtained almost unanimous approval of teachers, parents and community stakeholders to be returned to OPSB yet being denied by its own un-elected board which chose to extend its stay in the RSD.


The relevant policy to return of schools from the RSD, after five years of state operation, is contained in Bulletin 111.  The advocating parents and teachers called on BESE to change the policy.  They see such policy as placing too much power in the hands of a board that was not elected, and which seeks to perpetuate itself at the expense of the students.


The parents say they are driven by the fact that the RSD is widely seen as a failing system, and they were, before the RSD takeover, one of the top performing schools in the state and now achieve a School Performance Score (SPS) of over 100.   The parents say the teachers and students bridle at being known to be a part of a failed system, and that being returned to the OPSB better represents the reputation they seek for their children.  They made the point that there were no minutes of the Algiers Charter School Association or the Berhman board to indicate authority to request remaining in the RSD.


An attorney for the ACSA says his client needs to know the conditions under which its schools will be operating upon return to OPSB.  White suggests that BESE should make sure that a host of complexities involved in the return need to be understood by all four parties to the negotiated return – the RSD-ACSA-Berhman board/Parrent/stakeholder group-and OPSB.   He suggests that OPSB develop a model that would be applied in the case of all RSD schools as they become eligible for return. 


John Bennett, a Jindal appointed BESE member, urged that the Department work to that end with all parties, and develop a model that can be applied state-wide.   BESE voted to provide that direction.


OPSB has signified a willingness to accept the school back as an independent charter.  The new State Superintendent, John White, recommended that BESE not take action at this time.  He proposed that the return policy needs to be thoughtfully reevaluated. 


In the school return issue debate, Chas Roemer declared that the policy makes this issue, for now,  irrelevant and moved that the extension of all eight RSD schools completing their fifth year be extended another year in the RSD.  He suggested that BESE not ignore established policy in the Bulletin.  The vote overwhelmingly was to extend. 


In an earlier matter, the appointment of the new RSD Superintendent, Roemer charged the credentials required in Bulletin 747 for superintendent appointment be ignored…”the handbook ought to be burned” was the way he put it.  Roemer’s stance was that policy doesn’t matter if it stands in the way of giving students opportunity to learn.


Obvious to the sparse crowd attending the BESE meeting is that the new board is clearly solidified behind its agenda, and is willing to waive rules when such action serves their purpose.


Supt. White was articulate in stating his desire to hear what stakeholders have to say, and will actively travel, over the next few weeks, around the state to confer with local district leaders in an effort to learn more directly how the Department might better serve their needs.


Don Whittinghill



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