by Marion Marks
Question: “Lamar Goree may be the best educational leader Caddo has seen in the last ____ Years!” Take your guess as to how to fill in the answer to one of the most difficult questions 2015 leaders and all of Caddo will face. Caddo citizens, Shreveporters, voters, tax payers, students, parents of students, teachers, cafeteria workers or those whose lives will be affected by Lamar Goree, the new CPSB, and Political leaders will be expecting real leadership and transparency immediately.
Wednesday, December 17th I accompanied a number of others, about twenty non-CPSB team in all on a “Bus Tour” of three elementary Transition schools. There was no hiding the fact that those leading the tour expected to “effect” in the tour participants a transitional attitude adjustment from the perception most of the public had on the spiraling-downward trajectory Caddo education in general was headed, at least with these failing schools that had been labeled “Transitional.”
At 8:30 promptly the presentation began(Actual Video) with a brief statement about the expectations the Caddo educational leaders had for themselves and those chosen to evoke change in the schools that had been effectively placed on a form of final life support. In short, all members of these school staffs had been rebooted by shuffle or termination to reformulate a chemistry for a do-or-die opportunity for the neighborhoods and the team members at each location.
Billy Snow, Goree’s team leader for the Transition Schools, is an educational evangelist, at least in his personal commitment to the change in “Climate & Culture” in failing educational environments. His presentation to the public is educationally sound and his personal decorum with the job and those required to participate in the program appears to be impeccable. The presentation to the tour participants was inspiring.
The first school visited was Atkins Elementary(video), and the tour, as seen here, was composed of inspired moments and examples of educational models that demand performance and measured accountability. Some of the classroom performance demonstrated that the community members were not coached with answers, but they have a “long row to hoe” if the crop is going to be successfully harvested. There was no lack of enthusiasm in the tour, but the Queen (principal) will have to account by getting scores to move successfully along the expected curve.
Midway Elementary(video) was also an exciting stop for the small groups of observers. And, as with Atkins and later at Westwood, former Caddo leader and mayor-elect Ollie Tyler, participated in the tour. Tyler has as much to gain, or lose with the city economically, if the Transition plan does not succeed. Midway previously was more of an armed camp for detention of truant students prior to the transition plan.
Pockets of failure have been common to many neighborhoods where teachers, staff, parents, students and the community have been held hostage to a district plan that wrung the life and resources out of citizens to enrich select participants while failing to allow devoted educators to teach and deprive students of learning. The game has often been focusing on tests, goals, a “Common Core” or anything but just education. Career education has taken a back seat to politics, and that probably has killed off a generation of devoted teachers and stunted academic growth.
But the tour had to go on, and Westwood Elementary(tour video) was a great spot to end the tour. This former neighborhood school that previously should, or could have been boarded up, torn down or converted to a juvenile detention center been transformed into a gem for revitalizing a tough part of western Shreveport. The last time I saw this school was processing a late-night school break-in for Crime Stoppers.
Today the “Wild-West” theme takes on a new meaning for students and families looking to turn their lives around. We observed energy levels that speak of hope and constructive processes that can give students and parents hope. These are not necessarily world-beater brain surgeons, but they are constructive members of the Shreveport economic framework what will contribute to growth of something other than a prison system mentality.
The educational system cannot turn around on only one idea and one set of lesson plans. But a paradigm shift is begun when those who have power allow those who unselfishly dream to create hope to act for the good of the community. I’m not so naïve as to believe that this was not a public relations tour with real motives to get support for new plans that cost money. It was no accident that the concept of closing some schools and building new ones showed up almost the next day. Oh, it really did show up the next day!
And now that we have some framework of the cold hard costs before us for creating a new building plan, let’s refocus on why we have money driving the system. After all, we seem to argue about money at higher levels than we argue about children’s lives and the live of citizens who devote themselves to education.
If it were not for money (taxes), the public would allow educators to educate and students to learn. But we seem to have leeches attached at every level of the education system who demand a bit of blood for allowing the educational process to proceed. Until this cycle of outright bureaucratic theft is broken we will remain indebted citizens. Cleaning out rot cannot start soon enough, and I can only hope Superintendent Goree will use his office, unimpeded by those who will try at every turn to break him, to effect the changes we Caddo needs.
Start with greater transparency by providing public records at every opportunity – without even having to be asked! Put all contracts, purchases and comparative expenses online for the public to view. Compare success stories here with national successes. It’s often a matter of proactively demonstrating the will to be transparent. Too much that the system does financially appears fraught with corruption, even if it is not. The proof will be in transparency.(Summary of Tour Video)
Almost all in Caddo are cheering for success of the educational system. But success must be more than a public relations scheme. The public will always have some watchdog who has insiders who are ashamed of wrongful deeds. Make the whistleblower’s job obsolete by transacting business and posting records for public view. The cheering session at the end of the tour was very hopeful, but the success is a long-haul effort that will require a far larger public support.
View the videos linked in the text for insight into the Transition Schools.