Redistrict Caddo Parish Schools?

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Jimmy’s Corner

by Jimmy Couvillion

“Academically in crisis”– means: any local system in which more than thirty schools are academically unacceptable or more than fifty percent of its students attend schools that are academically unacceptable.”

The above statute was revised in 2004, 2006 and 2011.  The thinking was that if these conditions exist the school system must have a financial problem and requires an audit.  The local system must stay under this determination until the student grade performances are improved and the school is no longer so defined.

The point to include this provision is to exhibit how “off the mark” the legislature was at the time the bill was passed and how little the revisions help make the law effective, addressing the academic failures.

RS 17:100.5

Alternative schools establishment by local boards. Students exhibiting bad behavior are placed on a list and shall be selected from volunteers provided there shall be no racial, sexual, or ethnic discrimination in the compilation of the list or operations of the school.

Here I believe it says that students that misbehave can volunteer to go to alternative schools.  Can’t be forced, system can’t get them out of the classroom of their present school. Teachers selected to teach in such schools must volunteer. If we recognize the issues with students misbehaving, and its negative effects, why not force them out of regular schools and into alternative schools.

Why redistrict Caddo when out of the 64 not 74 schools that have a score on school performance for 2011, only 20 schools had a grade of “C” or better. Twenty out of sixty-four is a percent of 33.  That means 44 schools  and their students or 67 percent are enrolled in a system that are considered in an  “Academic crisis”. That is, if you consider grades “D” and “F” unacceptable scores. Caddo qualifies as a school system in Academic crisis. Will an audit of the books help? As required by RS 17:10-6. Will “not for profit charter schools” taking funds away trying to teach in the same environment improve test scores?  So far, the charter schools test scores, to determine promotion to the next grade, are not on record with the State, which is required by BESE.

So, there is only 20 schools out of the 64 that took the performance test in Caddo,  that parents would favor sending their children. If the 20 schools are placed in new different districts, they would only raise the school performance scores for the new district a notch or to. There are not enough of them to improve Caddo school performance scores. We are rearranging the chairs, maybe, with new districts, but this is not a solution for the 64 schools that took the test.

It would be easier to rewrite RS 17:100.5 so the local school systems have the authority to remove misbehaving students and place them in alternative schools.  That would reduce the challenges to teach the remaining with comprehension issues. I am sure it has been considered, but I have to wonder why it failed to get support. Here I am, assuming that “Conduct” is the major obstacle to teaching in Caddo.

We hear those who know better, in our higher circles, who are supportive of a redistricting plan.  I wonder if such a request to document the efforts for solutions was made., what would be the results. Can  we  obtain the results? It is clear that supporting a redistricting plan that they now have acknowledged failure from past performances, which is better than the school board, who has  not.

Please view Caddo Parish Schools website:  http://www.caddo.k12.la.us/caddo-parish-school-board

Role of the School Board

“The Caddo Parish School Board is composed of 12 members elected by voters to serve single-member districts. School board members serve four-year terms. Every year, the school board is legally responsible for the education of children from kindergarten through grade 12 who live within the parish boundaries. It is a policy-making body whose primary function is to establish rules and regulations concerning organization, general politics, major plans and procedures for the public schools. The board appoints a superintendent to manage its budget, supervise staff and students, and make recommendations on operation of the school system.” Why should we not sue the school board members if they are legally liable.

The list of Caddo Parish Schools is attached with school grade scores and the Principal’s name taken from the “school listing” on the website. What possible good or advantage will be achieved, if we put these schools in new districts and elect new board members.  We can’t get candidates to run for the school board, so what is the thinking that will make it any more appealing after putting the same students in the same schools in new districts?

Nothing much, in the existing local school system is working and the school test prove it. Busing is costly and school transfers are a negative for working schools, especially those with a school score of “D-“.  Those with the elected authority to educate Caddo Parish students and the board’s staff are failing their job.  Removing misbehaving students, unless they volunteer to go to an alternative school, was never intended to work when the legislation was passed and signed into law.

I and the community need to understand why the system is not working before we worry about what  schools will be put in or left out of new districts.  A new coat of paint is not the solution! The Alliance for Education meetings will help, only if we realize that what is being proposed, and supported  is coming from those who have had an opportunity to fix education in Caddo Parish.  If that statement is contrary to the establishment, then who has not been listening to the good ideas presented, so far, besides the School Board?

Local leaders in education are full of excuses. They say the school performance grades are not a true representation of student ability.  Some 44% of the State school systems have failing scores with D’s and F’s. Does that make us feel any  better? The” D-” school grade means the school failed that year to meet its target goal.  Missing the target goal for two years in a row can put the school in the failed school category, which the “D” grade with no minus is  bad enough.

The description of the new districts is “Independent School Districts”.  You hear the words  now “Community Schools”.  I looked it up. Any old or new district formed, or to be formed, depends on State and Federal Funds.  Even though they have taxing authority here in Caddo, the present system receives 44.7% State Funds, 14.8% Federal and 40.5 % local property and sales taxes.  If the term “independent” means free from all outside financial revenue sources, there is not today, and will never be an independent school district.  As far as a community school, using a private facility or public facility with constant community participation and open school house doors, when the community has a need, is another issue. We can’t say never, but we need to identify the community schools in Caddo Parish now and see what is involved in creating such.

It is time to go to meetings and listen for the buzz words that may be the future for “Better” Caddo Schools. It’s a long uphill climb, but changes are coming, ready or not, too many schools continue to fail students, parents and our community.

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