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    Superintendent does not deserve all the blame

    Many I Have talked to are very dissatisfied with the performance of the current superintendent. We know that the next superintendent must be someone with a strong background and proven performance record in educating children (all children). Our current su- perintendent is well-versed in nance. Yes, this is what our board chose to lead our kids and schools over the past decade; a nance guy. This is perhaps where the notion that more money is the right answer to solve every educational problem comes into play. Maybe we should ask the districts in our country that spend less per pu- pil and yet outperform others. Or, we can ask those districts in places like New York that spend tens of thousands per pupil while performance still lacks. But, that’s another discussion for another time.

    In the superintendent’s defense, I do not think the current superintendent deserves all of the blame for district perfor- mance. For instance, currently Tangipahoa has an abundance of “magnet” schools. However, there exists absolutely no blueprint or school magnet plan illustrating to the public exactly how each magnet program should look and sound by full implementation. Nor, is there a timeline with performance benchmarks so that the indi- vidual responsible for imple- menting magnet programs District-wide can progress- monitor implementation. What kind of organization does not have these simple processes in place? Ours.

    What is the outcome of this? Well, for one, we have commu- nications magnet schools that have been in existence for over ve years without any real outlying educational experiences than those found in traditional schools. What is the blue print for the Medical Magnet at Amite? Is it just the state’s jumpstart CNA programs? Let’s get serious.
    We have kids dropping out of the high school’s IB program because they were not properly prepared for the Diploma Pro- gramme in K-8. There has been no success in securing the ac- tual Middle Years Programme despite attempts having been made since 2012 or earlier. There’s no wonder our kids are having trouble in high school; they are missing the o cial IB Middle Years. Let’s not even talk about the academic per- formance of the district’s mag- net schools. Basically, most of them are in decline.

    As for our high schools, a high school supervisor reportedly assigned e ective ratings to a high school administra- tor who was removed by the superintendent for basically being determined ine ective. How can such a discrepancy exist? Well, based on the lack of growth performance coupled with culture and climate issues that existed at this particular high school, the superinten- dent probably made the rightdecision. However, the individual who gave that particular school leader e ec- tive ratings should have also been repri- manded. The public must trust that indi- viduals are being held fairly accountable for how they perform with our children, and the ability to properly hold system leaders just as accountable as school lead- ers and teachers is a known weakness of the Tangipahoa Parish School System. This system has been known to place in- dividuals in district leadership roles who have not been proven to have been ef- fective leaders in schools based on, well, school performance. We must do better to win the public over.

    Lastly, Tangipahoa Parish Schools contain a reform measure known to help raise student achievement called the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP). The program involves the hiring of mas- ter and mentor teachers in TAP schools as well as a district Master teacher who supports TAP schools. At one point, the system had as many as nine TAP schools. Now, it has only one. Again, who holds the individual responsible for supporting these TAP schools (District TAP executive TAP Master teacher), and why is this individual still serving in this role when the district only has one TAP school? Who pays for this? How did the one school in which this individual was responsible for perform this past year? It declined.

    In conclusion, yes, the superinten- dent is ultimately responsible for district overall performance. However, the in- dividual responsible for district magnet programs, high school performance, and the individual responsible for the TAP should all be held accountable for the performance (or lack thereof) in these particular schools and programs overall. In addition, the board should request a copy of how the superintendent and/ r designee evaluated each and compare these evaluations with actual school/pro- gram performance. We do expect that, in the future, this superintendent as well as future superintendents do a better job at securing the most e ective individuals for these kinds of positions so that our entire district can be led in a more posi- tive direction, academically.

    By Patricia Morris
    President Greater Tangipahoa Parish Branch NAACP

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    COMMENTARY: Tangipahoa school deseg case should not be downplayed

    Dear Editor:
    Needless to say, the importance of this particular desegregation case definitely should not be downplayed as arguments from every side are well understood. However, there are things that must take precedence as this process continues. Things like the assurance that every single one of our public schools has equitable resources and programs needed to be competitive, for instance, should be a priority. Planning strategically for each school by fairly balancing the clientele it needs to thrive and invigorate the community it services is of equal importance.  Likewise, the life of every single one of the 307 children from the Magazine Street area is even more important.  And, doing what is best for these children (all children for that matter) has to be top priority.
    When considering the latest court report, it is pretty apparent that reflection must take place in all who are involved in the future of our schools and communities. Somewhere and somehow, we seem to have lost sight of what is really important.  Of course, storms can impair vision. Therefore, leaders must strive to ensure all of our children and families are equipped to “weather” the remainder of this storm by practicing sound leadership in the midst. True leaders always acknowledge and stand for what is right. They always stand for what is honorable and just. They always advocate for the underdog. They always fight for those who do not know exactly how to fight for themselves.  And they always love everyone.
    With these same thoughts in mind, at some point we must sincerely question our own motives and leader actions.  By no means am I saying that the actions cited in the most recent court document were intentional. However, I am saying that more consideration regarding the  long term success of all schools, families, and children probably should have been given when engaging in the planning process. This is especially important when considering kids who are already placed at a statistical disadvantage due to various risk factors. Providing children with an opportunity to break family poverty cycles through education is a responsibility that should not and cannot be taken lightly. Think about it.  If the same educational practices and planning that may have very well guided many of these families into poverty for generations in the first place are continued, then it can almost be guaranteed that these same families will continue to remain in poverty for generations to come.  With the dedicated people we have throughout this parish, there is absolutely no excuse for this to continue to be.
    Let’s move forward by planning properly and responsibly for all of our children, schools, and families.
    Patricia Morris
    President
    Greater Tangipahoa Parish Branch NAACP
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    LETTER TO THE EDITOR: It’s the leadership, Stupid!

    D

    ear Editor:

    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.
    Patricia Morris
    President
    Greater Tangipahoa Parish Branch NAACP

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