by Marion Marks
Critics of the political action committee (PAC) working to make changes in the Caddo Parish School Board membership suggest new elected members to the board are “bought.” Voters with a limited perspective of newly elected members of the board backed by the PAC fail to see the positive side of the PAC. The newly elected are a long way from bought, and they will have a long, hard road ahead to improve the system. The PACs are exactly what the name states, “Action Committees” who back their philosophy up with money in hopes here of moving away from the status quo, made of too many stagnant, failing schools.
It’s sad to believe so little real money could influence such an important segment of the community. One board member stated, “these payments were like gratuities or tips to assist candidate campaigns, when the winners will invest thousands of hours to make any constructive difference in the system.” The PAC doesn’t buy any more than that a seat at the table with an elected official for open conversation. These payment shouldn’t purchase any more than a phone call or a meeting to discuss thoughts on change or philosophy. Too few comments have been more than complaints when it’s obvious Caddo needs focus on change that will begin in the central office. Transparency of the inner workings has been obscured by protection of turf and failure to make change.
Bad decisions made in the past seem based on no donations, but a lot of special interests who seem to suck the life blood from good education. The fact is that the “Midway Status Quo” MUST change radically in many, many areas. Parents of students, teachers and the general public must hope the system improves for ALL students, not just a select group who have paid for influence and a seat at the table.
I admire the concept of a PAC working to improve the system, because we can’t expect change without major modification to the inputs of the system. The CPSB has been like a drunken sailor who went back to the same bar, getting drunk and waking up the next day expecting the world to change. Our current educational system seems hung over, bloated at the top and few admit the flaws in the failed schools that seem obvious to independent observers. A good system is obvious in the “A” or “B” schools that are not tied to alumni associations who refuse to change or are set of protecting historical “Turf.”.
Fear of those who have struggled and created successful schools is that anticipated changes will destroy the successful models in the process of rebuilding the failed overall structure. When “A” or “B” schools with proven leadership and involved parents feel their schools are in jeopardy, the fears are real. If good schools suffer because of the failing schools the model for reform is flawed. If good models can work, they must start with retooling failing programs without destroying the good schools.
Successful schools are the result of years of hard work that fear they will be penalized or destroyed to prove points, generally to foster for-profit charter schools. The one new charter school in Caddo, with all the hope and promises completed a first full year and accomplished a score of “D.” This is better than “F,” but nothing to brag about. Let’s hope our newly elected board (complete after December run offs) will be able to start 2015 without having to wipe away successful schools before they begin rebuilding the failing educational infrastructure.