Monday, February 05, 2007

Schools Open and State Runs Away

From the T-P:

School openings ease wait list

Clusters of New Orleans children shuffled into two newly-opened schools this morning, ending a wait list process that kept some students at home for at least a month because there wasn’t room for them in the system.

Teachers at McDonogh 42 Elementary School, 1651 North Tonti St., and Julius Rosenwald Elementary School, 6501 Berkley Drive in Algiers, welcomed students on the first day of the new semester for the Recovery District. Many are children of evacuees who returned to New Orleans since fleeing Katrina. Some students started schools in other cities before coming back. The exact number of students who reported today was not immediately available.

Since Jan., more than 300 students who tried to enroll at schools in the Recovery School District, had been wait-listed. The district faces a teacher shortage and is trying to refurbish buildings in time to handle the influx.

Parents said this morning they were relieved to finally have their children in school.

“They need their education,” said Racquel Parker, who has three children at MacDonogh 42 and one at Rosenwald.

— Darran Simon
Small steps are often the hardest. Why was the school in Algiers closed? I found that Julius Rosenwald , the CEO of Sears-Roebuck, gave money for the opening of many schools for African-Americans in the South in the 1910s through 1930s. I never knew any of that. Interesting.

More interesting is Cleo Fields desire to get the state out of New Orleans public schools. They have barely been given a chance, they are held up by bureaucracy, and they can't estimate numbers without knowing the future of New Orleans. They are not doing well right now, but they can't do worse than the OPSB did.

Whole article...

Senators question need for state-run New Orleans school district

2/5/2007, 3:59 p.m. CT
The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Leaders of the state-run school district in New Orleans defended the district's existence Monday as senators said the system hasn't improved education in the city after Hurricane Katrina and has added more bureaucracy to recovery efforts.

Sen. Cleo Fields said lawmakers will debate whether to abolish the Recovery School District and return public schools in New Orleans to the control of the Orleans Parish School Board in the upcoming legislative session, which begins in April.

"I'm learning there's no need for the Recovery School District," said Fields, D-Baton Rouge.

Recovery School District Superintendent Robin Jarvis disagreed, saying the district could help improve schools in a city whose public schools were troubled well before Hurricane Katrina.

"I think, given time, the Recovery School District can bring better education than we had in New Orleans pre-Katrina," Jarvis told the Senate Local and Municipal Affairs Committee headed by Fields.

The district, overseen by the state Department of Education, included five charter schools in Orleans Parish before Katrina, but took over most of the remaining New Orleans schools after the hurricane flooded much of the city in 2005.

Currently, it's operating 20 schools with about 9,500 students; two schools opened Monday that together will serve up to the eighth grade. Their opening was to help erase a waiting list of about 300 students. Dozens of other schools under the district's authority remain shuttered, awaiting repairs.

Orleans schools struggled before the storm, with federal investigators combing through financial records, the parish school district unable to balance its books and most of the schools deemed failing by the state's accountability standards.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco pushed lawmakers to approve a takeover of nearly all New Orleans public schools after Katrina, saying it was an opportunity to revamp a failing education system. She defended the district Monday, during an appearance at a charter school in New Orleans, saying RSD was not perfect but is "making its way there."

But the Recovery School District has been criticized for moving too slowly to repair and open schools, to provide textbooks to students and to bring in teachers. A few hundred students had been on a waiting list to get into the schools until the district opened two more schools Monday. In some high school classes, there are as many as 36 students to one teacher.

Members of Fields' committee have been among the strongest critics of the Recovery School District. They have questioned if the Blanco administration was providing enough leadership and authority to the school district.

Sen. Derrick Shepherd, D-Marrero, said in some recovery district schools, teachers don't have basic equipment, like erasers for the chalkboards, and bathrooms don't have soap and paper towels.

Fields, who voted in favor of the school takeover in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, explained his vote Monday by saying he was "hoodwinked, bamboozled. The bottom line is I'm going to fix that when this session starts."

Last week in Fields' committee, Jarvis said that the state's contract and purchasing requirements had slowed building repairs and textbook purchases — and that education department officials had asked the Blanco administration to no avail to suspend some of those requirements.

At the time, Blanco staffers told the committee they didn't know of the request, but the governor then agreed to speed up the purchasing and bid rules for the school district. On Monday, Blanco's deputy chief of staff, Kim Hunter Reed, said the governor understands the problems and is pushing for improvements.

"Whatever it is that they need, we will be checking in with them daily to assist them," Reed said.

Grrr....Someone take some responsibility and fix this already...It's been thirty plus years.

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