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    LETTER: We Stand With the Most Effective People

    Our intentions never have been and never will be to hurt White people or any particular race for that matter. Strategically speaking, supporting the advancement of African Americans in Tangipahoa is supporting the overall growth of the entire parish considering about half the parish is African American. And there is absolutely no way that we can ensure what is in the best interests of our children with the mindset that we should hire unqualified Black people at the expense of losing effective individuals who are non-Black. The point is that we understand that to bring about the significant transformation spoken of by the board, the system has to make certain it hires the most effective individuals to lead in specific roles. We can no longer just hire people for purposes unrelated to bringing about success in our children first. Nor can we sit around and wait for an unknown superintendent while things continue to fall apart as one Board member hinted to as an option. Significant change means that even individuals on the board may need to be educated on exactly where the district falls short which should help guide them with “look fors” when determining who is best qualified for various roles so that the hire that may have happened in the case of Transportation can more likely be prevented.

    And as hurtful as the truth may be, we have fallen a little short with our children. Think about it. As per LDOE, students of color in Tangipahoa have a graduation rate of only 66%. This means that a whopping 34% did not even graduate. According to statistics, what is the likely outcome for these kids?  Ask Sheriff Daniel Edwards. Or, ask our Parish’s landlords. Not even discussed is the fact that the average ACT scores of students of color is a mere 16.5. We must do better. It all works together and begins with ensuring our kids are receiving a quality education.  Our concern is not about race if the individual has proven to be qualified and effective in advancing all kids, especially Black children which is definitely needed if we want to improve our parish long term. It cannot be.

    For the record, there have been many Black individuals whom the NAACP did not support in positions that directly affect our children. In fact, we recently expressed our non support for the following individuals prior to their selection and we will explain why:

    Walter Daniels 
    Walter Daniels has not only supported every single action made by the current superintendent, he has also made specific statements that belittle women. Just recently, Mr. Daniels stated that a “woman cannot handle the Director of Transportation job.”  It is 2017, and this is the sentiment of an actual School Board member. How will he inspire more African American girls to go into STEM fields with this mentality?

    Andrew Jackson – The role of the CDIO is to hold the system accountable to following the court order while doing what is in the very best interests of our children. We can recall that the system fought viciously against the current individual serving in this role for being unqualified for the position. The NAACP agreed with the system in this case.  Under his watch so far, the system has:

    1. Began with a salary of $40,000 annually; now according to the LLA Report has increased significantly.
    2. “Negotiated” a job for a long time female friend (colleague from Reynolds Institute) in a public school as an actual social worker although this individual was found to not even possess a license to serve in such a role, let alone deal with our children.
    3. Allowed the current superintendent to choose White candidates for positions in which more qualified Black candidates applied knowing these individuals were not the better candidate for bringing out the best in our kids. For instance, nothing was ever done about the Early Childhood Coordinator position.
    4. Allowed the superintendent to let Hammond High go a full year without being advertised while being run by someone who was a teacher less than a year ago.
    5. Did absolutely nothing about the removal of the hundreds of African American children from Eastside and Westside to Greenville Park and Woodland Park even after having been warned of the impact this would have on both school’s overall performance scores. This placed Black kids in a worse situation than previous.
    6. Knowingly allowed the superintendent to avoid advertising key positions for months at the expense of our children and an entire system that is already in educational crisis mode.
    7. Never followed through with the complaint challenging the actual credibility and validity of our system’s magnet programs due to so many that are believed to be magnets in name only. For instance, How is Westside Middle Magnet different from Natalbany Middle?  What is the specialized program and how has it benefited the kids?
    8. Never followed through with complaint of flawed evaluation system in which individuals like the same magnet supervisor responsible for the failing magnet programs and schools as a result may be underserved receiving high marks. We have yet to see evaluations as compared to performance.

    Byron Hurst
    We have all come to realize that doctorate degrees come “a dime a dozen” these days and we know from watching first hand poor leadership at some schools that things that look nice on paper seldom guarantee effectiveness. Therefore, we must look at an individual’s performance record in educating our kids. Byron Hurst was an ineffective school leader in St. Helena Parish. The school failed and he was later given a position as an Assistant Principal in Tangipahoa Parish. He then applied for a Principal position at Sumner High and was offered the Director post instead due to the superintendent wanting to place a White individual in that position. This decision making had absolutely nothing to do with children of course.  We will never support this unethical decision making. Now we have a failed principal overseeing the welfare of our kids. Again, significant change must take place.

    So, for those who have so long believed the NAACP to be anti-White, let our support for Kim Notariano teach an important lesson about our organization. Chuckling as I am writing this, she is definitely not paying us to stand for her. And she does not have to. We know that Kim. We know she loves children and takes her job seriously. Her record and credentials speak for themselves. Her knowledge of transportation, performance record as an actual parish bus driver, not to mention her business background far outweigh educational backgrounds in our opinion not to mention the fact the individual now in question did not even qualify for the position based on the system’s own advertised qualifications. If the board had hired the other candidate, then it would have followed the same pattern as discussed in the cases above. And if we are going to go ahead and pull together to bring about the significant changes spoken of that the people want, then the NAACP is taking the steps necessary to do our part. Children first!

    Patricia Morris
    President
    Greater Tangipahoa Parish Branch NAACP

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    Robinson speaks against Kolwe, number of failing schools

    HAMMOND–Tangipahoa Parish School Board member Betty Robinson is highly critical of the superintendent of Tangipahoa Parish Schools Mark Kolwe and she questions the number of failing schools.
    “I have three failing schools in my district,” Robinson said. “Hammond Junior High, Woodland Park, and Westside Elementary, all these school having failing grades. It not the educational system; it is the Superintendent Mark Kolwe is to blame. He is not an educator.”
    Robinson said, “Another problem we have in the school system is that our children are being taught by uncertified teachers.”
    “Everytime a failing school gets a principal who turns around a school, the superintendent will transfer that principal. (For example) Terran Perry was turning around Hammond Junior High, a failing school,” she said.
    “The tax payers can change the school system, and remove the superintendent by attending school board meeting in record numbers and challenge how their tax dollars are spent,” she said.
    According to Robinson, the school board has hired a public relations firm to produce information about a proposed tax that will appear on the November ballot.
    “I cannot support a tax. I don’t trust them with the money, and the community doesn’t trust the system. If the tax passes, the majority of the money will go to Ponchatoula High,” she said. “We must vote against the tax.”
    Robinson said her trouble with the school board started on November 3, 2015, when she was sworn in. “I did not received new members’ orientation until 2016–14 months later,” she said.
    In a letter to The Drum, Robinson wrote:

    Dear Editor:
    The recent report ranking our city as being among the worst cities to raise a child hit hard. The reason is that this is a direct reflection of our educational system. Citizens need board members to be open and honest with them about the state of education.
    Likewise, board members need a superintendent who is courageous enough to be honest and open about these matters with us. We cannot go on pretending like everything is great when national reports state otherwise as this makes us appear uncivilized. I understand politics, but the well being of children and families is far too important to play politics. We simply cannot afford to do so. Doing so has caused the outcome seen nationally.
    Our parish it’s cities and towns are a jewel. However, a better job must be done with our schools.
    The superintendent of over a decade owes local mayors, business leaders, civic leaders and especially families answers as to why our system is in this current condition. And please, do not continue to place blame on money.
    People are tired of this excuse and have stated that they will invest when they can trust that their dollars will be effectively spent on improving educational outcomes for all children. Would you believe that one of the highest ranking school districts in our country actually spends less than we do per pupil? Go figure.
    It is about effectively prioritizing and managing what you have, and our data points out that prioritizing funds starting with what is in the very best interests of children has definitely not been an area of strength for our system’s leadership.
    An entire decade has passed, and this is the outcome. We must do better in assisting our parish’s cities and towns by doing our part in securing leadership that we know can improve system wide academic outcomes so that we all can reap the benefits of having a district filled with high ranking schools.
    Betty C. Robinson
    School Board Member
    Tangipahoa Parish District G

    By Eddie Ponds
    The Drum Founding Publisher

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