RSD School Construction Overspending and Substandard Concrete: Time for Jindal Admin to Expand Its Audit Sunday, Aug 10 2014 

edutalknola:

It’s long past time for real oversight and accountability with the Recovery School District. If these construction issues had happened with OPSB driving the train solely in control of the post Katrina rebuilding money, the media would be doing weekly articles on this chaos. It’s time that our legislators end this charade of so called reform called the Recovery School District.

Originally posted on deutsch29:

As of June 18, 2014, Louisiana State Superintendent John White has found himself to be the focus of Office of Contractual Renewal (OCR) and Division of Administration (DOA) investigation for his questionable methods regarding Louisiana’s assessment contracts.

White has publicly complained that such is evidence that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is out to get him. White’s buddy, Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) President Chas Roemer, a career politician, tries to deflect focus from any White/BESE wrongdoing by dismissing the entire situation as “politics.”

(I’m sure it’s mere coincidence that Roemer the Politician Who Hails from a Family of Politicians and Who Has Been Calling Out Jindal for Behaving Like a Politician *just happens* to be featured in this August 9, 2014, News Star heart-warmer about how he has no future political aspirations… “for now.”)

The problem with White’s complaints and Roemer’s curt dismissal is that…

View original 1,962 more words

Saving John Mac Wednesday, Aug 6 2014 

2 Open Letters to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

The Recovery School District has neglected this school for too long.  It's time to return it to the Orleans Parish School Board

The Recovery School District has neglected this school for too long. It’s time to return it to the Orleans Parish School Board

John Mc Donogh High School  was one of the first high schools to open in the Recovery School District after Hurricane Katrina.  Almost from the beginning,  the John Mc Donogh community sought to work with the Recovery School District (RSD)  to improve the school and instill in it, the kinds of programs that the community knew were necessary for the success of the children in New Orleans.  At every turn the community’s efforts were rebuffed, eventually in favor of chartering the school under Future is Now Schools.  The RSD closed John Mc Donogh High School at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.  The John Mc Donogh Steering committee has never given up and will never give up.  It has garnered the support of the Orleans Parish School Board in requesting the return of John Mac and has secured more than 500 signatures on a petition.  Members of the steering committee and attorney Willie Zanders appeared before the July 30, 2014  Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) committee of the whole to request the return of John Mac.  Attorney Willie Zanders  presented 9 very compelling reasons why the BESE should return John Mc Donogh High School to the jurisdiction of the Orleans Parish School Board in his July 30, 2014 Open Letter.

(Be sure to click on the links in the letters)

BESE Committee members listening to the testimony of community members

BESE Committee members listening to the testimony of community members

 

During the July 30, 2014 BESE meeting, Vice President James Garvey stated that the board needed to seek a legal opinion to determine if it has the authority to return the school, or was this a decision to be made by Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard.  Attorney Willie Zanders lays out a very thorough analysis that shows that BESE does indeed have the authority to return John Mac to the Orleans Parish School Board in an Open Letter dated August 4, 2014.

Support the John Mc Donogh High School Steering Committee by liking their Facebook Page and signing the petition.

 

 

RSD One App Chaos Continues Update 7/11/14 Friday, Jul 11 2014 

Today parents exiting the Family Resource Center at Lake Area High School  are saying that RSD One App staff  is telling them that there are not 4th and 8th grade seats in the system.  This is disputed by representatives of two schools who have shown up on the site.  Representatives from Tubman  and Milestones schools both say they have seats available in those grades and can also accommodate siblings.  Parents have been told by RSD One App staff that sibling preference can no longer be accommodated and some parents are forced to split up their kids.  Apparently there is still confusion.

Parents are also saying that they are being told that only Landry-Walker and Cohen College prep have seats available.  Parents living in New Orleans East are unhappy with these options.  You may remember that the Recovery School District closed Reed high school which is in New Orleans East.  Had they not done so, Reed high school would be an option for parents in New Orleans East. Cohen and Landry Walker are very far away from these parents homes.  It seems that the RSD is forcing parents to choose these two schools, which in effect means there really isn’t choice at all.  The parents we spoke to wanted to choose Mc Main High School, Mc Donogh 35 High School, Karr High School. and Wright High School, yet those choices were full.  Many also wanted to choose Warren Easton High School, but Easton does not participate in One App. 

I encourage all parents to contact schools to see if there are seats available before going to Lake Area High School and getting in line.

Many parents are being turned away because they don’t have the necessary paperwork.  I would be helpful if the RSD would create a phone message clearly stating what paperwork parents need to bring.  The paperwork requirements should be posted on the door of every school in New Orleans so that parents would have access as well as be placed on the front page of the RSD website. It is unacceptable to have people wait in long lines to only find out that they have to leave and come back.

We are seeing more Latino parents in these lines and we are told that Spanish speaking translators are on site to help parents enroll their students.

If you are concerned about this chaotic process and want to work with other parents to recommend solutions to the Recovery School District, leave you name, email address and cell phone number on our School Justice Line 504-365-3006.  We will inform you of the next meeting to work on solutions.

If you are as outraged by this week’s RSD One App Enrollment process, please call your state senator and state representative today and demand solutions for the dysfunctional Recovery School District.

Still Waiting in Lines, Nine Years Later Wednesday, Jul 9 2014 

July 9th, over 800 parents try to enroll their children in public schools in New Orleans through the Recovery School District's One App process.

July 9th, over 800 parents try to enroll their children in public schools in New Orleans through the Recovery School District’s One App process.

 

Nine years after the state takeover of our schools, parents find themselves standing in line for education.

This post was going to be very different. I was going to write about how my day started. I just deleted what I’d written because of a text I received from a parent today.

In the text she writes:

“I don’t think I will be there tomorrow I can’t handle all those people. I have flash back from Katherine when we had to stand in line for food &water for our children in the heat now we have to do it for education . So every Charte school can get a head count to get there money that’s not beneficial to our Kids .”

No, I did not correct Katherine, I know she meant Katrina nor fix the spelling and grammar errors. It’s a text message, not a business letter. I simply cut pasted her text message into this post. This is a real, living breathing parent, who wants the best for her child, just like all of the parents I saw today.

The Recovery School District was not prepared as about 800 parents showed up to enroll their children in school through their common enrollment process called One App.  I wonder if the RSD understands that they are re-traumatizing New Orleans parents, over and over again as they try-out running a school system, and get it wrong, over and over again. It reminded me also of a time several years ago when there weren’t enough seats for children in January of 2007. We’ve been here before, for me, it’s another post Katrina flashback.

Then my phone rang.   After this call I wanted to delete what I had just written, but I didn’t.  This call was the second of the day from a parent I’d  met earlier at the Recovery School District Family Center. She’s a lovely mother who is totally blind. (her words, not mine) She spent more than 3 hours standing in the hot sun with her 8 year old, only to be turned away and told to come back tomorrow to a different location.

Lovely Parent

 

While that might be an inconvenience for most, it’s a true hardship for this mother. Many of our parents have transportation challenges, and for this mother it’s no different. Well, maybe it is, she’s blind so she can’t just get in her car or hop on a bus without assistance. She needed to get someone to bring her to the every where she needs to go and have them wait with her, or find someone else to bring her home. If that were not challenging enough, what she shared with me next, knocked me off my feet. To be in today’s lines, also meant that she had to make sure there was a nurse at home with her 18 month old who has cerebral palsy, a feeding tube and a brain shunt. It won’t be easy for this mother to simply show up tomorrow.  She asked me to “put her business in the street” if it will help her get a 2nd grade spot at Behrman Charter school. She’ll accept Alice Harte Charter School also. These are her choices. She said she can’t  put her child “just anywhere” because she has ADD and she needs teachers who really understand how to work with a child like hers.

 

Parents want to be able to choose the school that best fits their children’s needs. After all, we’ve all heard about this all choice system in New Orleans. This is now a system of choice. We have charter school proponents who say that if a parent doesn’t like their current placement, they can choose another one tomorrow. Today’s long lines in the hot New Orleans sun shows us that it’s just not that easy. At the request of this spunky visually impaired mother, I put her request on Twitter about 6 hours ago. I’m still waiting for a school to let me know that they can’t help this parent. I’m still waiting for the One App office to make some reasonable accommodation for this parent with a disability so that she won’t have to wait more hours for a seat that may not even exist.

Come back tomorrow and wait some more.

Nine years after the takeover, I don’t think it’s too much to ask of the state controlled, Recovery School District,  to provide high quality choices for parents, who are trying to educate their children in the newly transformed, open enrollment, choice driven public school system in New Orleans.  Certainly, it’s unconscionable that the RSD would have parents wait hours in the hot New Orleans sun for education just like they waited nine years ago for food and water in those days after Hurricane Katrina.

I sure hope this pain in my chest goes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Role of Suspensions in Public Education. Monday, Dec 23 2013 

 

Recently students and parents Image at Carver Prep and Carver Collegiate charter schools have expressed concerns about  a number of issues at their school.  One of those issues was the excessive use of suspensions for minor issues.    I am discussing this topic this morning on WBOK radio in New Orleans.  You can join the conversation  no matter where you are by visiting http://www.wbok1230am.com today, December 23rd at 10AM Central time.   We’ll talk about the recent letter from the Souther Poverty Law Center which encourages the Collegiate Academies Board and administration to make some changes.  It’s an excellent letter that points out the conflict between what’s written in law and Collegiate Academies very own student handbook.

Listen to the New Orleans Imperative Radio show this morning and if you miss it, it will re-air on http://www.theneworleansimperative.org beginning on December 30th. 

I’ll talk more about this subject after the holiday break.   

Follow me on Twitter @KHRoyal 

Facebook:  Karran Harper Royal Education Advocacy 

The Best Article Ever About New Orleans’ Charter Schools Monday, Oct 7 2013 

edutalknola:

Andrea Gabor has done a great job of putting a human face on the changes in the New Orleans public education system over the last years.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

We all have heard or read or seen the stories in the mass media about the “miracle” in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina, which Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the best thing that ever happened to education in that city, wiped out public education and the teachers’ union. Now New Orleans is the only city where more than 75 % of students are in charter schools with minimal government regulation.

Experienced journalist and scholar Andrea Gabor here goes behind the curtain and takes a closer look than Oprah or the other high-profile celebrants of the “miracle.” Her article appeared in Newsweek-The Daily Beast. (I link to another site here because I had trouble opening the Daily Beast site.)

In a tour de force of investigative journalism, she takes a close look at what is happening in the best charters (typified by a degree of regimentation that most parents would…

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Ed Reform in New Orleans…Truth Does Not Match Rhetoric Saturday, Sep 14 2013 

In a recent story by The Lens , the keynote speaker made an impression on a particular charter school leader. I really do hope more privatizers “get it.” It’s important for those pushing charter schools and privatizing of public education to understand that their simplistic approaches prolong real solutions our children so desperately need. Their propaganda has swayed the court of public opinion, legislators and funders into believing that removing children from schools in their communities has totally transformed the public education system in New Orleans into something that works. This illusion of school choice that they are pushing is just the opposite of what Jeff Duncan-Andrade said to a room full of charter school supporters at the recent Louisiana Association of Public Charter School Conference. To think that by simply taking children out of their neighborhoods, and dressing that up as “school choice,” it would transform a school system, is irresponsible. I’m glad they had someone like Duncan-Andrade speak at their conference. As an education advocate and public school parent, I’ve tried to tell charter supporters that this was flawed thinking, to no avail. What’s important now is what these charter school advocates do with what they heard from Duncan-Andrade.

I am glad that Elizabeth Ostertag of the Net Charter “Alternative” School felt that Duncan-Andrade’s message hit home. Ostertag was thinking of the recent murder of 18 year old Leonard George. George lived about a mile away from where I live in a quiet Gentilly neighborhood. Situations like this always lead me to make a quick calculation about how old the child was right after Hurricane Katrina. I then wonder about the child’s post Katrina educational experience. How many different schools has he attended since returning after the storm? Why was this young man at this school to begin with? The Net is an alternative school. What went wrong in George’s post Katrina educational experience that precluded him from attending a traditional high school. Based on reports from family and neighbors, it sounds like his Mother, Christine George, a police dispatcher, who was also slain, was a wonderful person . So let us not do the “blame the parent” thing. Post Katrina, Leonard George would probably have been in the 5th or 6th grade. These 8 years after Katrina have been enough time to transform how he learns, if you want to believe the old public school system messed him up. Based on his address, he may have been a student at Bienville Elementary School, Nelson Elementary School or maybe even Waters Elementary School. However, none of those were options in his neighborhood right after the storm. Even if they were open, he would not have been guaranteed the right to attend any of those schools because we no longer have a right to the school closest to our homes, or a neighborhood schools. The KIPP Believe Charter School would have been the middle school if it had come back to that area post Katrina. KIPP Believe currently operates in the uptown area of New Orleans, not the area that served students from Phillips Junior High School, the school KIPP “tookover.” Nelson has become a charter school and it still struggles as a “D” rated school. Bienville was not opened until recently as Arthur Ashe Charter school, it too is a “D” rated school. The nearest high school is the “C” rated Lake Area high School, which is an early college high school, or the “F” rated John Mc Donogh High School. John Mc Donogh is now a charter school operated by Future is Now Schools and was recently the subject of a reality series on the OWN network. However, George ended up going a little further away from home to attend The Net, an alternative school, why? I would guess that school options and his personal adjustment to post Katrina living were factors in his life that contributed to him being at The Net.

I was moved to tears by another news report about a trio of young perpetrators of crime recently. For every one of these tragedies with our young people, whether they are the victim or the perpetrator, I want you to look at how this post Katrina education landscape complicates the lives of these young people. It is time that those pushing the privatizing of public education, to the exclusion of neighborhood schools, start to recognize the part they play in the stress our young people and their families are dealing with. Perhaps the loss of Leonard George will lead more charter school supporters to rethink their position and begin to value what many of us value was we work to rebuild our lives after the horrible Katrina Disaster. A sense of belonging in our own neighborhoods, surrounded by the people we know care about us goes a long way in helping us adjust after the disaster. A horrific disaster was not the time to experiment with dismantling a public education system. It was a time to give the children a since of connectedness and normalcy. I wish charter school advocated operated by an oath to “first do no harm.” There was much to fix in our school system, but the price paid in the lives of children is too high a price to pay for the mediocre results we are seeing 8 years after the state takeover of public education in New Orleans.

In fixing a public education system, it was hoped that we will no longer see young victims and perpetrators of crime the way we are seeing them in New Orleans today. It was hoped that our city would benefit socially and economically from the drastic changes and infusion of additional public dollars brought on my the state takeover. It was hoped that the lives of the people would be positively impacted and we all would be able to see the improvement without ever knowing the test scores of schools. Instead, in New Orleans, poverty has risen and in the last two weeks we’ve seen children die from violence or the conviction of children from being perpetrators of violence. Something is very wrong with the education reform picture in New Orleans. Our truths do not match the rhetoric of success.

Public Education in Post Katrina New Orleans Through the Eyes of Parents Thursday, Sep 12 2013 

The landscape of public education has changed drastically in the 8 years since the State Department of Education took over the vast majority of the public schools in New Orleans.  How those schools are doing seems to be a matter of perspective.  However, based on the State’s own data, 100% of the direct run Recovery School District schools  under the jurisdiction of the Louisiana Department of Education are rated F.  Of the charter schools that fall under the Recovery School District, 79% of those with letter grades are rated D or F.  These facts indicate that the Louisiana Department of Education has produced a similar or worse result than the previous elected school board.  However, we know that there is so much more that needs to be looked at in addition to scores.  Listen to the voices of two parents who used the public school system before the state takeover and after the state take over.  Parents Ashana Bigard and Nikkisha Napoleon are my guests on WBOK radio show Eyewitness to History.

A conversation with a New Orleans Parent about Vouchers and Choosing a School. Thursday, Apr 18 2013 

Last night I received a call from a very distress parent who was concerned about her child’s voucher school and it’s ability to provide a quality education for her 9 year old child. Sadly this child has already attended 3 different private schools and one charter school. This mother was surprised to find out that voucher school, which is a religious based school was one of the absolute worse scoring schools in the voucher program. She told me that when this school and others were promoted to her, they did not say anything about how students at this school had scored previously on state tests. This particular school is also on probation and may actually not be in the program if their test scores don’t improve significantly. In addition to these problems, the school is refusing to implement an Individualized Education Program (IEP) from the child’s previous school. I hated to tell her that as a private religious based school her child did not have a right to the same kind of special education services the child had in his previous public school. Services are limited to what the school has decided it would provide.

This parent has decided to seek another “choice.” When she told me the name of the next private religious based school she had chosen. I had to inform her of some of the experiences of other parents that I knew about who also had chosen that same school. The only thing I could do at this point was to give her a list of questions to ask the school so she could get a feel for the school’s ability to serve her child properly.

This parent was dismayed that in all of the promotion about the various school options in the voucher program, she did not have access about previous performance. No one told her that this school was on probation. This is a major problem with the voucher program.

I told the mother a little about the kinds of services that were possible within the public school system for a child with a disability. I advised her that a public school was her child’s best option to get the services he would need to be successful, based on what I know about the public and private schools available in New Orleans. As we explored other possible choice in the public school system, the mother told me about her experience in visiting a particular charter school. She was very much turned off when she asked to take a look around the school and the school was reluctant to show her around. She had a bad feeling because of this experience and did not list this school as one of her choices of public schools. I asked her if she knew that most of the Recovery School District (RSD) charters were rated D or F, she did not. She was shocked to find that 79% of the RSD charters are rated D or F. The RSD direct run schools were not even in the conversation with 100% of the direct run RSD schools being rated D or F. Our conversation moved “choices” within the Orleans Parish Public School system of schools and it’s charter schools. As it turns out, those were the only options of public schools that this parent felt comfortable exploring further. She realizes that her child needs stability and those schools have been very stable in the last 7 years since “reform” came to New Orleans.

Parental “choice” seems to be Louisiana’s major tool in reforming public education. Parents need adequate information in order to make informed choices. Even with this information, how does “choice” actually improve the quality of schools? Is it really school choice to continuously move children around in search of a better school option? Is this school reform? At what point do we get to reforming schools in our communities so parents don’t have to constantly move children around? When will the Louisiana Department of Education provide parents with adequate information to make an informed choice? When will schools open up their doors so that parents can really see how their schools operate rather than give them the usual PR propaganda? The good news is that this parent is now armed with information and will continue to seek a seat in one of the few quality schools within the Orleans Parish school system.

Meet the Parents Across America Founders: Karran Harper Royal Monday, Sep 3 2012 

This profile is part of an ongoing series of portraits of key Parents Across America  members.

Karran Harper Royal’s articulate, impassioned advocacy for children has made her a familiar figure in her hometown of New Orleans and a sought-after speaker the national scene. In public meetings, government hearings, conference presentations, radio programs and television broadcasts, she cuts straight through the puffery that so often characterizes education “reform,” asking hard questions and describing the experiences of her city’s most vulnerable children in eloquent detail.

Karran’s activism began back in the 1990s, when her oldest son encountered difficulties in kindergarten, largely because he did not fit the expected student mold. She became his full-time advocate, and in the process learned to negotiate the complications of educational policies and bureaucracies at local, state and federal levels.

As her experience grew, she began to realize “that school wasn’t just broken for my son. A whole lot of little Khristopher Royals had not been getting what they needed.” So she expanded her advocacy to other children and families, working first for the city Mental Health department and then for the Pyramid Community Parent Resource Center, where she advises the families of children with disabilities.

Then came Hurricane Katrina. The floodwaters that devastated the city filled Karran’s Gentilly home with ten feet of contaminated water. Karran, whose family has lived in New Orleans for generations, came back to the city as soon as the floodwaters receded. “I’m a New Orleanian through and through,” she said. “We love where we live. There was just no question that we were coming back.” Karran, her husband and her sons stripped the house to the studs and built it back. Karran worked to rebuild her neighborhood school and joined several civic improvement groups.

As she labored to rebuild her home and her community, Karran accepted an invitation from the Louisiana Department of Education to serve on the Recovery School District Advisory Council. She had been concerned for years about the quality of public education in New Orleans, and hoped that the state’s control of schools would be a positive move. But she watched with growing dismay as the state used Katrina as an excuse to replace most New Orleans schools with charter schools.

Unlike U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who proclaimed Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” Karran quickly saw the flaws in the system, especially for children with disabilities. While traditional public schools were required to meet the needs of challenged students, most charter schools preferred to simply kick them out. In a city with few traditional public schools left, children who were expelled or pressured out of charters had only deeply troubled schools as options. And even in the charter sector, many schools were failing to deliver on the educational miracles they promised.

The all-charter system also destabilized neighborhoods, because families could not count on sending their children to a neighborhood school. Karran worked with families whose children were scattered among several different schools, because of the vagaries of charter lotteries. This lack of educational stability, she explained, introduced an “additional trauma” to already devastated neighborhoods and communities. “They’re destabilizing neighborhoods,” she lamented. “They’re destabilizing families.”

As well as helping individual families, Karran began to work with the Southern Poverty Law Center to document the problems with post-Katrina education in New Orleans. She connected with other Parents Across America founders after she spoke out against Arne Duncan’s Katrina statement. She was attracted to the idea of working to improve education policy on a national level because, as she pithily put it, “It’s from those policies that actions occur that impact children at school. If you have crappy policy, you’re going to have crappy action.” She believes that parents need to be organized to influence policy and its implementation at every level of our society.

Her own family serves as an example of the power of parent advocacy. Her oldest son, Khris, graduated from New Orleans schools and won a full scholarship at Berklee College of Music in Boston, which led to a successful career in music. Her younger son, Kendrick, currently attends a New Orleans public charter high school.

When Karran isn’t traveling to speaking engagements across the country or the world, she divides her days between the phone, the Internet and face-to-face meetings with parents and community members. She sees herself as an “information sharer” in the communities she works with, helping parents and community members to understand their rights and sharing with them strategies to participate effectively in their children’s education. “I can’t solve everybody’s problems,” she notes. “I want to give parents the information they need so they can solve their own problems and be strong advocates for their children.”

She is currently seeking to expand her political influence, by running for the District 3 seat on the Orleans Parish School Board. Go Karran!

Originally published by Parents Across America at http://www.parentsacrossamerica.org

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