LETTER TO THE EDITOR: It’s the leadership, Stupid!
I read an article in which the individual who the superintendent has responsible for overall district academic performance described the performance this past year as “impressive.” By whose standards? Of course, this would be the evasive response if one’s own job performance is tied to the fact that 19 of our schools declined under his or her leadership. These same individuals are quick to deem teachers and school leaders as being ineffective or emerging when they perform this way. This double standard is probably why talented individuals who know better are leaving our schools in herds.
It has been well over five years. What do we have to show for it regarding academic performance that is considered impressive from general contractors and businesses points of view or the points of view of families looking to relocate?
Let’s stop kidding ourselves. We all know that our Parish President and Hammond Mayor would not have to travel and try to recruit businesses to come to our parish and largest city if our district performance would speak for us.
True leaders do not constantly shift the blame on items like poverty and parents. Nor, do they rely on the belief that money fixes all of our problems. Talented leaders are innovative and dynamic enough to figure a way to move forward in spite of.
As for poverty, we all understand that poverty plays a role in all things including education. It becomes insulting when some assume citizens do not understand this. We also understand logic and potential. Logic reminds us of the simple fact that there are other districts that are not declining, but inclining (some pretty drastically) even though the poverty rates are high. This proves that our district can also move forward and at a much faster pace. To further bring this point home, logic also tells us that if a school like our beloved Independence Middle, which serves as a microcosm of a district in much worse shape demographically as ours (95% free/ reduced), can make significant gains in spite of, then we must consider that our district can and should be moving at such a pace.
The issue is leadership. We have often said that we need fresh-minded, innovative, and proven educators to lead our district in making the gains we can all be proud of. I’m old and I get this.
In addition, somewhere down the road, the current leaders of our school leaders must be held accountable. The individuals responsible for academics must be held accountable and the Superintendent must be held accountable for the leaders he chooses to lead principals. The NAACP does not support individuals simply because they are black. We support individuals who are effective in providing all kids, especially minority children, the quality education they deserve.
Our record regarding the individuals we have supported to lead our schools proves such.
My questions for our Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer are:
1. Is it impressive that we seldom (if any within the last 5 years) have black kids in the 27+ club for ACT?
2. Do either of you even know how many or what percentage of black seniors scored 27 or above this past year? 18?
3. Is it impressive that only 13% of black kids are proficient?
4. Is it impressive that almost every single high school’s end of course test performance declined? Were these exams “tougher”?
5. Is it impressive that both East Baton Rouge Parish and Orleans (including recovery district) perform better than Tangi?
6. Is it impressive that there are other districts with similar poverty rates that are inclining in overall performance?
Again, I am appalled that such a description as “impressive” was made when considering where we are even with the talented teachers and leaders we still have in this parish. I become upset just thinking about the many black doctors and lawyers that could have been but are now in prison or poverty due to this way of thinking. Our kids deserve better. We definitely do not blame our teachers and school leaders. We blame the decisions and lack of vision and direction of their leaders.
Again, the board has some difficult decisions to make, and we hope that they place children first and not politics.
Greater Tangipahoa Parish Branch NAACP