The lack of quality seats and a strategic plan is hurting New Orleans students

Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog that criticized the OneApp system in New Orleans and also highlighted the dismay felt by many parents around the city whose children had yet to be matched to a school, had been placed in a school across town, were matched to a school that was not one of their choices or placed in a school that has subpar grades. Parents were also given directives to take part in the second round of the OneApp process. Besides baffling many families, teachers, administrators, and individuals who are involved in education, the OneApp debacle has sparked many conversations and provided dialogue to an already important issue, ”When is educating our children in New Orleans going to take center stage?”

When one looks at education in our city, I believe that the guidance and leadership should start and end with a consistent group of people. In New Orleans that should be the Superintendent of Schools, who is responsible for educating the children of Orleans Parish and the Orleans Parish School Board members, who are responsible for representing the people and families of New Orleans. I know many of you are going to say that OPSB and the Superintendent weren’t in direct control of the majority of the schools since Katrina and the OPSB and the Superintendent are just now getting back control since the official passing of Act 91 and the Unification process. All of that maybe true in theory, but I have some interesting thoughts about this issue that I believe would have made education better since Katrina and will make it better from here on if the Superintendent and OPSB members concur.

In the days following Katrina, the plan was to get schools reopened for children, but I’m not sure how effective that plan was by the powers that be when they fired the best thing New Orleans schools had going, its veteran teacher core. I’m sure there’s opposition to that statement, but that’s another blog for another day. Getting the schools back online was the responsibility of the state run Recovery School District (RSD). Although the RSD had a local office, it was an agency of the state which left little control of schools to the Superintendent and the OPSB members. Now, back to that grand plan by the powers that be. I’m told that the creation of quality schools with quality seats from quality Charter Management Operators (CMOs) was the ultimate goal. This would circumvent the past OPSB system of a few quality magnet schools serving only the best students who could pass the entry exam and eliminate that  inequitable hook my child up enrollment process said to be used extensively pre Katrina. The new system was going to fill the city with quality charter schools that would be the envy of all parents far and wide.

Well catapulting to today, nearly 13 years since Katrina and that has failed to materialize. The city full of wonderful charter schools has not manifested and what we are faced with is more of the same pre Katrina battles. Although it’s the OneApp enrollment system now, the same few good schools remain with families jockeying for spots for their children. Although this new system was put in place by the RSD, I am completely disappointed in the Superintendent and OPSB board members and here’s why. I view the RSD as a fly by night operation that came to New Orleans left and left us with more of the same plus some more tangled webs. Through all of this, the Orleans Parish Superintendent and OPSB has failed the children of New Orleans with their lack of professionalism and progressive leadership.

The Orleans Parish Superintendent and the OPSB are established institutions created to ensure the educational success of the children of New Orleans yet they failed to show any leadership over the past 13 years that would create quality schools in New Orleans and they have failed to come up with and present to the people of New Orleans a strategic plan to ensure the creation of more quality schools for the children of New Orleans. We need more quality seats then OneApp could possibly handle the load of parents seeking quality schools. Lately, I hear OPSB claim they are simply facilitators or just a governing body who makes sure that the CMO’s comply with the laws and policies set in place by the state. I don’t approve of that message and I don’t buy that. I say to the Superintendent of Orleans Parish and the OPSB members that leadership matters and it goes a long way to influence others. You are and should be the education influencers in our city. I simply ask the Superintendent and OPSB members, “What is your plan going forward to create high quality seats in high quality schools and when can you articulate that to the people?”

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