Empty Conference Room --- Image by © Bill Varie/Corbis

Change:The Facelift the Orleans Parish School Board Desperately Needs

 

Say goodbye to the school board you used to know.

When Senate Bill 432 passed and was signed into law as Act 91 it should have been evident to New Orleanians that despite a gradual return to local control they will not be witnessing the same old school board that they once knew.

The school board and its members will have less power than the pre-Katrina school board. They essentially will not affect any operational procedures of charter schools; the OPSB has no say in charters’ curriculum, personnel, yearly calendar or contracts.

This new age school board will definitely need a new way of thinking and creative game planning in order to spread its influence, ideas and to ensure that  charter schools reach school board benchmarks.

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A Sit Down

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ben Kleban CEO of New Orleans College Prep who recently won a school board seat serving the 5th district (he will be stepping down from his role at New Orleans College Prep before his term begins). During our conversation, Kleban articulated some creative ideas about how to get New Orleans schools moving forward toward sustained future progress.

 

What determined your decision to run for the school board?

I see it as a real opportunity to bring an end to a fragmented system. I wonder, how many more gains can we achieve if we worked together toward a unified goal? Everyone on the same page, unifying the resources and officially dealing with the shortcomings in the system when they exist collectively. I’m thinking more of the future than I am of the past.

 

What are your thoughts on how the school board, along with the unification, will be beneficial to parents and families?

The ability to have local democracy where a parent doesn’t have to drive to Baton Rouge to address a group of officials that are out of touch — by no fault of their own–but they don’t live here in New Orleans. Parents should be more engaged to advocate for their children. Local school boards offer a more direct connection and opportunity for development of relationships with parents and students. A relationship that should be healthy for the success of schools.

 

The education of special needs students in our community is so important. What would make this process more efficient?

The local school board should be more accountable for the writing, governing and implementation of IEPs for special needs students. We need to make sure that each child is receiving adequate services that match their needs and we must be more vigilant in identifying violation issues. We should ensure that federal and state laws are being followed and we must commit ourselves to communicating to and educate parents about the process.

 

You recently wrote an article talking about your re-evaluation of discipline and suspensions. Can you elaborate on that for us?

I’d like to think that I have become better now than I was ten years ago. I know a lot more about our kids in our community as well. When I assessed what NOCP was doing well ,I discovered that suspensions rates wasn’t one of them. We were following a one size fits all process that wasn’t working. When we started looking at individual kids, addressing their issues and behavior planning just for them we determined that what  one child responded to well and what made them successful was totally different from another child. We needed a system that would not just involve suspensions and force but alternative individualized actions

 

As we wrap up, could you give us a statement from you that would represent all parties of this unification?

If the leadership of the system at the board level, the superintendent and the key stakeholders –the voices of input–are all on the same page and working from the same playbook to get to a common goal for our kids then there has got to be more opportunity for progress than what we have had thus far.

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