Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October 14 Public Hearing on Future of RSD Schools

By Titus Lin

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will be holding a public hearing at 5:30pm Thursday, October 14, 2010 in the auditorium of McDonogh #35 High School, at 1331 Kerlerec Street. The meeting will be to discuss the future governance of the sixty eight New Orleans schools currently operating under the Recovery School District (RSD).

This public hearing comes following the release of recommendations by State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek in mid-September regarding potential plans to return RSD-New Orleans schools back to Orleans Parish control, and will be followed by a meeting on December 7 where the Board will take a formal vote on the matter. Students, parents, educators, groups and all citizens of New Orleans are encouraged to attend the public hearing to offer feedback and input.

The RSD is a special statewide school district created in 2003 and administered by the Louisiana Department of Education whose purpose is to take in and reform the state’s seriously underperforming schools. Although only five New Orleans Schools were transferred to the RSD between 2003 and 2005, the number increased dramatically after Katrina. Under state law, schools transferred to the RSD are to remain under RSD control for an initial period of five years, after which they can be returned to local control if student performance is raised to an acceptable level. This initial period will expire at the end of the 2010-2011 school year for Orleans Parish public schools transferred to the RSD in 2004 and 2005.

The RSD has been subject to significant controversy. Following Katrina, as part of a unprecedented experiment in privatized school management, RSD transformed approximately half of its schools into charter schools. While reports in the news and from educators around the city claim that the RSD’s charter school system has been a success, many problems exist with the RSD charter schools, as well as with the RSD as a whole. Studies have shown significant inequalities in academic progress between individuals schools as well as between charter schools and direct-run schools rising in part from a lack of centralization or centralized control.

In addition, the RSD is currently the subject of a class action lawsuit for failing to maintain proper special education programs for students with disabilities. Many concerned parents have also expressed frustrations over the lack of transparency and accountability in RSD charter schools. Perhaps the most concerning fact, however, is that at the end of five years, it appears that a large majority of New Orleans public schools being managed by RSD are still failing, have not improved significantly during their time with the RSD, and would not meet the criteria to be released back to local control.

In response to overwhelming requests from concerned parents and community leaders, LJI has helped to coordinate several initiatives to address issues within the RSD and OPSB, including the New Orleans Public Schools Monitoring Line, which advised parents, students, and school employees of their rights and resources. LJI has coordinated numerous workshops on school discipline practices and charter school education.

LJI continues its assistance to individual parents and students on education issues. We do this because we understand in this area of advocacy, needs are often far too pressing and have reached a crisis point.

Again, the details for the public hearing are:

Event: Public Hearing on Future Governance of Recovery School District Schools
Date: Thursday, October 14, 2010
Time: 5:30pm
Location: Auditorium of McDonogh #35 High School
Address: 1331 Kerlerec St, New Orleans, LA 70116

Please come and express your opinions.

Titus Lin is a Holmes Public Service Fellow at the Louisiana Justice Institute. He received his Juris Doctor of Law from Harvard Law School. At Harvard, Titus served as External Training Director for the Harvard Mediation Program and Fundraising Co-Chair for the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association. In addition to coursework in International Law and clinical work with the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School, Titus interned at Timap For Justice - a nonprofit, paralegal justice services organization - in Sierra Leone in the summer of 2008. He also interned briefly with the New York Immigration Coalition.

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