To Charter Or Not To Charter:How Operators Lose and Confuse The Families They Say They Serve
My conversations on the phone and recent meet up with parents and supporters of children who attend New Orleans’ last remaining district schools run by the Orleans Parish School Board left me concerned. My worry centers around the actions of those who are handling the parent and community engagement aspects of the OPSB. At their recent meeting, parents say they were told how to ask or state their questions. Their questions were taken all at once at the beginning of the meeting and when the meeting was over, they were still left without a sense of understanding or inclusion within this process.
As parents rallied the troops and prepared to meet to discuss a plan of action, they were blindsided by a letter in their children’s backpacks from the OPSB that solicited support for an independent Charter Management Organization called the ExCEED Network of Schools.
This photo is an original letter that was leaked to a reporter and subsequently revised.
The problem with this action is that no one knows who the ExCEED Network Charter Management Organization is. No one knows who their leaders are and no one knows who is initiating the idea of this Charter Management Organization getting a charter (although many parents believe it is actually officials of the Orleans Public School Board). Needless to say there are far too many unknowns, too little transparency and lots of unanswered questions that have parents feeling left in the dark.
There is something wrong with asking a group of parents to support a charter management organization that has not been properly introduced to them and that seems to be coming out of nowhere. It feels coercive.
In response to the actions to the OPSB, a group of parents has formed who are against the chartering of the remaining schools. A group of parents who believe that public district schools should stay that way and that chartering is not a beneficial idea for them, their children or for the schools of New Orleans.
I personally don’t have a position on the chartering of these five remaining schools. But I do have a position on the communication that parents deserve. I fight for a true and clear parent voice that needs to be part of any decision involving their children; this, on the other hand, feels like a parent engagement campaign cloaked in secrecy.
Here’s what I think:
- I believe that the direction of these five schools should be reflective of what the majority of the parents and families collectively want.
- I believe that an intentional and deliberate seeking of an organic and authentic parent voice should be aggressively pursued in order to gain an unbiased collection of parents and families concerned
- I know factually that parents are very apprehensive because of the treatment that they have received from school officials and the lack of answers they have been afforded even when they ask high level officials at the OPSB. They feel snubbed.
- I intentionally question elected school board members that are very quiet about actions from the OPSB administration and from school officials. The fact that public servants serving the people had little to say about a blank letter of parent and teacher support when it should be evident to them that these parents and teachers don’t have a clue who is in charge of this organization trying to garner their support is puzzling, to say the least.
- Public officials who represent these parents -their constituents- must make an attempt to provide information and address their concerns.
The OPSB is confusing the community and these letters sent home in children’s backpacks caused even more unrest to parents who are already guarded about what is transpiring in education at the local and national level. The parents I have spoken to have also expressed that they wouldn’t mind potentially working with charters and supporting them but not until they feel confident about accountability and standards. But that will be much harder with the distrust and uncertainty created when education officials are not forthcoming with information.
I’m only raising my voice in the hope of sparking dialogue and deep conversations about common ground that will benefit our most precious resources, our children. We owe our kids that much.