by Elliott Stonecipher
‘Tis the season, I suppose. With its massive property tax – and more? – election coming next spring, our Caddo Parish School Board and sizable central office staff are now rolling out another “strategic plan.” The current draft of this latest one is a 37-pager (here).
With Kisatchie Forest-like density, the new plan is entitled “Re-Imagine Caddo: The Plan for Excellence.” We should take care not to mistake it for last year’s “Re-Invest in Caddo” plan, or its notorious tax-and-spend-on-steroids predecessor, “Vision 2020.“
Even our school board members are not likely to read this one, and Superintendent Lamar Goree’s appeals notwithstanding, neither is the public. Here is a sample paragraph, verbatim, from Page 9 to give readers a feel for that to which we are treated:
“1. Implement RtI (Response to Intervention) with fidelity including frameworks for Tier I (core instruction) and intervention model at Tier 2 and Tier 3 focused on data-based, scaffolded instruction.”
In truth, the paragraphs of online plan intro killed much of my initial interest. There I learned the plan came to us by way of a “Florida-based consulting firm specializing in K-12 strategic planning and auditing.” It got worse as I learned the planners’ “experience spans districts throughout the country with work in school systems in cities including Los Angeles, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Atlanta.”
Silly me, I fantasized that our own system, in which we have invested untold toil and treasure, might take note of where such outside consultants have now delivered us. We may be forgiven for assuming this will be another waste of tax dollars … from a rapidly dwindling number of taxpayers.
My sincere urging is that our Caddo school system staff and board will now …
… Consider East Baton Rouge
The East Baton Rouge public school system is comparable to Caddo’s in many ways, most notably in student enrollment: 42,574 students in that system, and 40,801 in Caddo. These are the second- and third-largest systems, with only Jefferson Parish enrollment higher, at 47,977.
For 2014, both the EBR and Caddo systems get a “C” letter grade from the state, with the (percentage) “performance scores” for the two at 81.3 and 79.1, respectively.
The East Baton Rouge Parish School System – yes, acronym “EBRPSS” – has over the years lost residents of three parish areas to secession – systems in the Zachary, Central and the City of Baker. The enrollment in the now and remaining EBRPSS is 79.5% “economically disadvantaged,” compared to Caddo’s 72.0%.
By race, 79.0% of students enrolled in the EBRPSS are black, 10.5% white, and the remainder are all other races. The Baker break-away system is 95% black, Zachary is 45% black, and 18% in the Central system.
In the Caddo system, 64.1% of students are black, 30.3% white and 5.6% other races.
In critically important ways, the EBRPSS is an almost brand new political entity. Marking that fact, its newly elected superintendent, Warren Drake, is white, chosen by a school board which last summer accomplished the redistricting necessary to reduce its size from 11 to 9 districts, 5 of which are majority-white and 4 majority-black (Baton Rouge Advocate article here).
The member election followed accordingly last fall, with 5 white and 4 black board members thus seated.
In East Baton Rouge, the population of blacks and whites is almost exactly the same, while whites hold a distinct majority in voter registration. In Caddo, blacks are just barely a population plurality, and whites hold a near 4% registration advantage.
With latest parish Census Bureau population data of July 1, 2014, and current July 1, 2015, Louisiana Secretary of State voter registration data:
East Baton Rouge
Population: black 46.0%, white 45.9%, two or more races 1.3%, all others 6.8%
Voter registration: 51.8% white, 43.7% black, 4.5% all other races
Population: 48.0% black, 46.7% white, 1.4% two or more races, all others 3.9%
Voter registration: 49.9% white, 46.2% black, 3.9% all other races
With these data in mind, the Caddo Parish School Board, with 6 white and 6 black members, have since 2003 agreed – without public explanation – to reject all but black superintendents.
More recently, the Caddo board voted to replace a resigning white Southwest Shreveport / Caddo member with a black member, rejecting two white applicants … regardless that 73% of voters in subject District 11 are white.
Memo to Caddo Parish School System
After residents of Baker, Zachary and Central over the years organized to exit the failing EBR public school system, push-back from the state legislature’s Black Caucus and other Democrats slammed the door on those in Southeast Baton Rouge who attempted to follow.
In response, to have their own public school system, those Southeast Baton Rougeans organized to form their own municipality, the City of St. George, which would have been relatively wealthy, and about 70% white. Establishment interests in Baton Rouge took the lead in defeating the secession before it made it to a vote.
Although, as detailed in this Baton Rouge Advocate article, Drake is now expected by many to somehow make peace between St. George advocates and opponents, my friends and other sources in EBR see little chance of that happening. Predictions of a new wave of Baton Rouge population out-migration abound.
While Drake may be no miracle worker, he certainly began his stint with a bang – the kind of bang no Caddo Parish Superintendent ever set off. A mere seventy-seven days after the EBR Board hired him, Drake went public with a plan to cut, net, 25 Central Office jobs, and $1 million in spending. (SEE Advocate article here.)
Now, THAT’S a plan untold thousands of Caddo taxpayers will read!
(Elliott Stonecipher is in no way affiliated with any political party, and has long been a registered “Other,” or Independent. He has no client or other relationships which in any way influence his selections of subjects or the content of any article. His work is strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is appreciated.)