Concerns with the selection of new members of The Advertiser’s Editorial Board

Concerns with the selection of new members of The Advertiser’s Editorial Board

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Guest Blogger Debbie Hargrave examines the background of the new appointees to the Advertiser editorial board:

The June 1st Sunday Advertiser’s introduction of the 3 new members as well as 2 returning members of its editorial board impressed me. All of the members are highly accomplished and obviously committed to the community. Cindy McCurry-Ross stated that the newspaper sees its role as “sparking, stimulating, provoking and encouraging community dialogue.” Obviously this has been accomplished. My concern, however, is the lack of diversity, especially in terms of public education in Lafayette Parish. Ms. McCurry-Ross further wrote “And we are always open to disparate voices.” I don’t think she has accomplished this goal of diversity in dissimilar and contrasting opinion in terms of public education.

After having taught in a Lafayette Parish public school for 40 years and being a product of that same system, I despair that the public education system not only in Lafayette but throughout the US is under attack, especially by those who say they want reform, but what they mean by reform is privatization i.e. charter schools. Privatization is NOT reform.

Chip Jackson is an active member of 100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette and the chair of their education committee, Anne Falgout is the president-elect of 705, and Jay Jackson is Chair of the education committees of both the Chamber and United Way.

Each of these groups, 100 Black Men, 705, The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, and The United Way are strong members and supporters of LaPESC – Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council. Its primary goal is “Working to achieve academic improvement for all children in the Lafayette Parish Public School System.” That sounds great, but their calls to action and listed goals and priorities are a great deal more specific, and that’s what frightens me.

From the LaPESC website (the underlining is mine) : “Call to Action: LaPESC supports charter schools and advocates LPSS School Board approval of high-quality applications that meet standards of third party reviewers recognized by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. LaPESC also advocates continued support of the 100% in/100% out turnaround plan [Dr. Cooper] so that all LPSS schools are high performing by the year 2018.”

What’s more, although LaPESC set up 10 specific governance goals for the Lafayette Parish School Board in May 2011, the group is now asking community members to evaluate the Board members after every meeting. The proximity of this new initiative to the upcoming elections is, in my mind, far from coincidence though Margaret Trahan, one of LaPESC’s founders, told the Board at its May 21st meeting that the group is not political.

Whether political are not, LaPESC seems very focused and like-minded – the antithesis of the “disparate voices” called for.

I hope that my concerns are unfounded and that the newspaper has not already decided its position in the continuing public school system debates as well as the upcoming School Board elections, but I think there is reason to worry.

Representative Nancy Landry’s hidden agenda?

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Debbie Hargrave is a retired Lafayette Parish teacher.

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Debbie Hargrave

Does Nancy Landry have a rather frightening hidden agenda in 2 of her 18 education bills before the legislature this term? PPEL supporters committed to Public Education need to be aware of the long term goals that may back up these bills which are explained as innocuous measures to possibly change the governance of our school system.

The 2 bills are as follows: House Bill 593 – This bill calls for a Constitutional Amendment that would exempt Lafayette Parish from following the Louisiana Constitution that requires the legislature to create parish school boards and provide for elections of its members. This will diminish or deny the right of the citizens of Lafayette to elect our school board members. House Bill 980 – This bill creates a commission to reorganize the governance of the Lafayette Parish School Board. The commission will be selected by the Chamber of Commerce (1), the Greater Southwest Louisiana Black Chamber of Commerce (1), Lafayette City President (3), Lafayette City Council (1), area Mayors (1), ULL President (1), South Louisiana Community College Chancellor (1), House Representatives from Lafayette(1), Senators from Lafayette (1), Lafayette Parish Association of Educators and Louisiana Federation of Teachers (1) and Lafayette Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana (1). This will be a total of 13 members with none representing the Lafayette Parish School Board.

Of great interest is an article posted on Nancy Landry’s Facebook page with a question as to whether “traditional school boards are becoming dysfunctional and obsolete.” The article is from Education Next – http://educationnext.org/lost-at-sea. It is titled “Lost at Sea: Time to jettison one of the chief obstacles to reform: the local school board” and was written by Lisa Graham Keegan and Chester E. Finn, Jr.

To me, the most troubling paragraph in the article is as follows: “Once every school is essentially a charter school, there will be no need for a centralized municipal-level body that makes decisions for an entire school system. Individual schools will respond to the needs of their families and employees while the state sets standards and monitor academic results.”

Representative Landry was quoted in The Independent as saying “I know we’re all looking forward to the next elections, but in case it doesn’t work out how WE want, I think we need to have this insurance policy on the shelf.” I heard her explain to the Youngsville City Council that the work of the Commission established by HB 980 would be something to “put on the shelf” just in case. She did not explain the “just in case” as the opportunity to deny the rights of Lafayette Parish voters as would be established by HB 593.

Privatization is not reform.