Return to Local Control Means Parents Must Be Heard

Senate Bill 432 has passed. Orleans Parish Schools are being returned to local control. Education officials announced thirteen members of a committee that will steer the process. It includes a mix of charter school heads, education advocates, and nonprofit leaders.

It is a distinguished committee whose members have extensive backgrounds and experience in education. However I have some important questions for members of the committee. Who will ensure that the parents’ narrative is clearly heard and addressed? Who will insist that top education officials embrace parent involvement and not throw it around as the cliché it has become? Who will see that families’ concerns are taken into consideration and are the top priorities of the transfer? Because without families’ participation and input none of this will work.

Many of these committee members were around before Katrina and they have firsthand knowledge of what the system was like then. Have they learned valuable lessons since then? Do they see this as an opportunity to make children’s school years more efficient, knowledgeable and memorable? Do they intend to make the educational process for families better? Is this the freedom they have been looking for from a bureaucratic district full of red tape? Will they see this as an epic opportunity to change the lives of New Orleans children forever by enacting groundbreaking, family oriented and student friendly rules and guidelines that could be the new face of education in America for the 21st century?

I know many people are watching New Orleans around the country and I’m not interested in our children’s education being viewed as an experiment for education. I’m interested in comprehensive change. I like school choice and I enjoy that charter schools give teachers the opportunity to use and their abilities and talents, but I’m not looking for a charter management organization whose CEO will try to impose his or her will in dictatorial form on a group of schools. I also need an agency in the Orleans Parish School Board that will be fair, unbiased and clear when it comes to the governance surrounding these schools. The old school board was in disarray when it came to business and paperwork. The public needs to have clear access and transparency when it comes to matters of records and bookkeeping.

The citizenry does want schools back under local control but we won’t accept anything less than a total transformation of the day-to-day operation of New Orleans education system. The committee is slated to have a plan in place by September 1 with the panel meeting until all schools have transferred to OPSB. This is due to happen in July of 2018 with the possibility of a yearlong delay. Rest assured that the citizens of New Orleans are watching these events. I fully expect this committee to seek the thoughts of the community. We are not hard to find.

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