Feeling Abandoned


Maybe I’m just a parent who should stay in my lane and leave the business of education to the well-experienced professionals who do this for a living and make the best decisions they can for the benefit of the entire education system of New Orleans and particularly OPSB. Because obviously we don’t have all the details and we should trust the elected officials of the school board and the Superintendent that they appointed and his dedicated team. They do have our best interest at heart and in mind right. We should allow them to do their job without wondering, questioning or pushing back against any decisions they make.

Yeah, right and be that as it may, I still feel that it is essential to share some thoughts about recent actions by our school superintendent Henderson Lewis and an advisory committee on the most recent school on the chopping block, Mahalia Jackson Elementary School. To question is the American way. To inquire about a subject and demand representation is the Democratic way. So here I am.

As a parent, it’s hard not to have questions and concerns when it comes to the actions of our elected officials and the Superintendent that they appointed and who currently makes sweeping decisions that affect so many families. The Mahalia Jackson Elementary school closure is just one in a series of actions that has parents confused and frustrated.

If Mahalia Jackson Elementary was on the verge of closing then why did the charter organization that the school board supported to take over the remaining schools use Mahalia Jackson Elementary in its application in bidding for their takeover of district schools? Surely with the close relationship between the two organizations, the ExCEED network had to have an inside track on what was potentially going to happen with the school. Or was it only after the independent evaluator questioned some financial numbers that the ExCEED network was using in their bid about rental income from other organizations that utilize the campus as well? Numbers that they evaluator saw as risky business dealings. An evaluation that ultimately leads to the evaluator making the claim that ExCEED wasn’t established enough to run a group of schools.

It seems odd that only days after the independent evaluator submitted its decision about ExCEED network that the decision to limit the school’s enrollment to only siblings of current students was made. It also seems suspect that the district would limit enrollment and make decisions to close the school with two more rounds of One App to go.

This decision was made in March and relayed to parents last week. I cringe at the thought of any closing that is announced after the One App deadline. It makes decision making and planning harder for parents and yet elected officials and OPSB administration staff will claim that their number one responsibility is to provide a quality education landscape for families.

I’m not seeing that here.

Having gone through a school transition already and hearing school officials name my daughter’s school’s for potential closure, it’s getting hard not to see the writing on the wall.    When I heard that they suggested a closure of Mahalia Jackson Elementary, I had to literally stop in my tracks.  I laughed. They can’t be talking about that beautiful campus that adorns Jackson Ave and sits in the heart of central city. They can’t be talking about the very school where I have attended OPSB parent engagement and parent liaisons meetings. They can’t be talking about that refurbished campus that houses other community organizations and a library.

It didn’t make any sense. But then my mind started turning and experience kicked in. The school board representative for the district, Ben Kleban, acknowledged that the campus could be used for future schools and that they will work with the community organizations in the building. Well, why didn’t you say that in the first place? We have literally gone through a dog and pony show and been made to feel like they are keeping us in the loop about Mahalia Jackson Elementary only to have the decision about closure sprung on us at the final hour. And then, twenty-four hours later, we hear the first mention about how they may use the building to house another school. It is clear that school officials at OPSB have no problem abandoning families and students when they have alternate agendas for the buildings they occupy.

Do us all a favor next time school board members and Superintendent Henderson Lewis. Don’t play with families and students’ education while you secretly use our buildings as chess pieces in some game. We can’t trust you when you do that.

Please do better.

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