Saturday, October 19, 2013

Open Letter to Mr. J. Delano Ford, Deputy Superintendent of Transformation for the Recovery School District in Caddo Parish




Open Letter to Mr. J. Delano Ford 
(Deputy Superintendent of Transformation for the Recovery School District in Caddo Parish)

Dear Mr. Ford, 
            Thank you for serving as the special guest at our "Education Reform Forum" last Monday night.  Although I appreciate your intent to help change the current situation in Caddo Parish's AUS4+ schools, I find it unfortunate that you did not provide any specific details about how this can be accomplished.  Your reluctance to disclose your own ideas or to encourage us to work with our school board to improve their preliminary "Caddo Believes" plan has led many people to speculate that you and your colleagues have already made up your minds to establish more Type 5 charter schools here in Caddo Parish.  
      What I would especially like to know is how the insertion of two new levels of  bureaucracy (both at the state level and at a new corporate school level) would benefit the students in Caddo Parish?  The data from Caddo's recent experience with charter schools does not encourage us to believe that there would be any benefit whatsoever.  The two schools that the State has already taken from Caddo (Linear and Linwood) are still performing unsatisfactorily as charter schools, relative to the vast majority of schools in our district.  Furthermore, despite the population redistribution that occurred in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, many of the RSD charter schools down there are still performing at a near-failing level.
      We cannot just blame our local school officials for all of the problems in Caddo's schools, when it is the State that has largely taken away the autonomy that our teachers need in order to teach their students in the way that they see fit, as professionals.  Superintendent John White has a tendency to stigmatize both kids and teachers in struggling public schools.  His own deficiency of experience as an educator (less than that of any teacher I know) is apparent from his lack of constructive policies for the public schools. I have never seen him visit any of our public schools, nor offer any constructive advice whatsoever to our public school teachers or staff.   Furthermore, the policies that he has implemented have driven far more public school teachers from the profession rather than encouraged any new teachers to pursue this once noble career.  
     I hope you recognize that, no matter what administrative model ends up being selected for these schools, the curriculum in the schools must be changed.  We cannot continue to force our public school teachers to keep "teaching to the test", and we must foster more creativity and self-awareness in our students.  I especially wish that you would allow us to incorporate more project-based learning into the classroom and to work with the students on an individual basis during the school day, tailoring their education to their specific needs and weaknesses.  I have some ideas about how this could be accomplished within the framework of our existing public school system, if only you could help facilitate that. 
     Please do not rush into change for the sake of change alone, especially if political undercurrents from people within our state government are behind this.  If the timing of political aspirations largely underlie the sudden rush to action here, then this whole pursuit will most certainly not have a good outcome for anyone.
                                                                                                                                                                  Sincerely,
                                                       Brian A. Salvatore, Ph.D. 
                                                       Chemistry Professor 
                                                       LSU-Shreveport 
                                                  

4 comments:

Brian Salvatore said...

This is pretty much what we expected they had in mind: http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/20131020/OPINION0106/310200026/RSD-lays-out-plan-eligible-Caddo-schools

Loren Demerath said...

I'm hearing mixed things about Charter schools. Maybe we should theme on that next month. Scott Hughes would be good panelist, maybe along with you, Brian.

Brian Salvatore said...

I would like that. I do not want to see our community give up on accomplishing great things in public schools that are under our local jurisdiction. I respect Scott and I believe that he has a different perspective on how things should evolve, going forward, so it would be an interesting discussion. I just think it is unfortunate that democracy is failing us so badly at our local school district level, that we are considering ceding control of our schools to state and corporate entities. I think that this is an omen, of sorts. I would like to share this article too:
http://dianeravitch.net/2013/08/22/geoffrey-canadas-charter-schools-get-mixed-unimpressive-results-on-common-core-tests/

Loren Demerath said...

In separate emails, both Superintendent Ford and Interim Superintendent Robinson acknowledged receipt of the letter and encouraged us to work with them towards solutions. Neither offered a substantive response.