The Caddo School system is beginning to resemble the eastern French border in the 1930’s. The Maginot Line with intense fortifications is being built around the Midway office. Superintendent Dr. Gerald Dawkins is verbally assisting the forces of long-term administrators who have built their lives around the educational system. Teachers, dedicated and trained with their lives and families vested in the system are spending their limited off-hours working to justify their school fortresses, while the core central office leadership (all transient citizens who don’t even vote in Caddo Parish!) counts their daily accumulations in their wallets, while pushing résumés out the door at their rented apartments.
East Baton Rouge Parish Schools are closely monitored by Caddo Experts. The public is being lured with promises of “greatly improved schools,” “greater local control” and the insinuation that taxes can and will be significantly lowered from what is proven “the highest levels in the State and the South.”
The information and maneuvering is the move to split the Caddo Parish district along “more homogenous socioeconomic boundaries.” We are witness to a closely choreographed move, similar to the split in East Baton Rouge Parish that resulted in several community ISDs (Independent School Districts.). The Baton Rouge split took longer than I believe Caddo players hope it will take here. Well-backed workers ranging from lobbyists, legislators, consultants of all types and even the Alliance for Education are negotiating to carve out sections of the parish. Some will make NO money until the rezoned districts are operational. They will be paid for work by the management of the “New ISDs” (a problem for good-government bean counters!) The motivation is to make this a short battle.
The issues appear to be WHO will be in which zone – both by geographic boundary and by building. Being a good listener and a good organizer are a citizen’s most valuable asset. The problems of the Midway–Caddo Central office and costs to run the current district are the greatest albatross citizens wear. Until the “Dawkins” factor is resolved, hope is that smaller districts with common interests may work better.
The forces for the “move” are pouring fuel on the fire to allow Midway to burn. Promises “hint” that some current leaders would be “best off” if they allow chaos and spirit the demise pointing to enhanced losses in the current system. Public relations are against the status quo.
Caddo Parish has some of the best schools in the State. Proving why they are successful to the general public is difficult when so many failing “buildings” (schools) also exist. Many failed “buildings” are due to home-rule board members refusing to allow their historic buildings to close or become a part of a homogenous program under unified stronger leadership. Many of the failing schools refuse to accept valid long-term options to save the students and the system. Alumni dream of the return of “glory years.” There isn’t time or money to make that dream come true. And time and money lost trying to hold tight to “Dreams” is costing citizens the opportunity to fix the parish-wide system.
The American belief has been “public education should exist within a financially sound model based on solid educational principles.” Caddo parish has the census and tax base to support a unified and streamlined system that provides a superior educational program as well as improve the education of students at failing schools. There has been NO WILL to make the changes required. We are all frustrated with the status quo.
Between spokesmen for the school board, the unions and the administration of CPSB there is an inability to “FIX” holes in the system of bad management and wasteful programs protected by board members who refuse to face the reality of the crisis. Caddo will not continue to maintain small neighborhood programs, and particularly high schools, that the census and lack of program successes demand be closed. These failures are an easy target of critics and experts in the field. The intransigence of parties to face the realities of the voter/taxpayer climate and the move in Baton Rouge at the Capital to give businessmen and taxpayers control of their local schools make the move to charter or smaller ISDs that much easier for voters.
The system will not stand much longer. So you better decide which changes you can support. Caddo is taking the next step to return to what appears to be a “Separate, But Equal” system.