Meeting of the Minds


I recently attended a town hall held by the Orleans Parish School Board at my daughter’s school, Andrew H. Wilson. What I thought was going to be a meeting to discuss issues within the school system and how they planned to fix them did not happen.

For starters, I wonder why these sorts of meetings are not advertised to the public. There are numerous ways to do so, like social media, news outlets and putting up flyers.

You would think if a town hall is hosted, parents of students attending the school where it’s being held would be aware of it.

Well, guess again.

I found out about the meeting through word of mouth—a client I work with who is very active in local education called to tell me about the town hall. There was a very short mention on local news stations the morning of the meeting. Officials from my daughter’s school did not have information on this town hall.

The town hall turned out to just be an introduction of Henderson Lewis, the local district superintendent. He introduced key members of his staff and went over the school board’s mission and goals. There was no discussion of issues parents wanted to hear about, like changes to our kids’ curriculum.

Too often we parents are let down by these types of events. There is no outreach being done to learn what we’re concerned about.

One question posed by someone at the town hall was how the school board planned to engage parents. Mr. Lewis simply replied it was up to the school’s administration and the parent liaison to handle all parent communications. Also, parents could forward questions to him. You would think they would try to use the town hall as an opportunity to talk to parents directly.

I asked what course of action was the school board taking to get more pre-K programs in elementary schools. Pre-K programs here are very limited. A school that has a good program typically has only enough funding for one class. Children who have a sibling at the desired school do not receive first priority to these programs. Instead, children with individualized education plans or families who are considered low-income families have first priority. Unfortunately, families have to make next to nothing to be considered. I wasn’t given an answer. I was told the same information that I already knew. I was told the qualifications needed to get in the programs are already in place.

Based on personal experience and what other parents have told me, getting your child into a pre-K program here is frustrating because of a child’s late birthday. My son just turned 4 at the beginning of this month. The day care center he attends is wonderful and because of his education, he is ready for elementary school. But because of his birthday, he has to start his next school year in pre-K—that’s if I can get him into the school that my daughter has attended for three years now. My son will turn 6 shortly after entering kindergarten.

I can say that the one thing that I learned in this meeting is that the Orleans Parish School Board and Recovery School District are working hand and hand, which I feel is a benefit for our children.

I hope that the next town hall I attend will actually hit on some of the issues parents and children face in the New Orleans school system. I hope I find out what they are doing to make education better and a bigger priority.

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