Scott Allen Stetson, Sr./Opinion
My understanding of the relationship between teacher and parents with the Natchitoches Parish School Board indicates that years of poor leadership practices is what has yielded these tensions. There was a lot of information discussed on the evening of February 8th, and it was easy to get lost in the details. There are a few statements that were made that I perceive gives a much larger picture of what we as parents and our beloved teachers are actually up against.
Natchitoches Parish has been under consent decree for decades. Yes, you read that correctly, decades. Why? Because our schools were failing. They are still failing. I am all for changing things to improve our current state of affairs as it applies to our children, but I can’t simply swallow that statement with ease. This means that the current administration has endemically failed to the point of where the Judicial System had to intervene on our behalf. Please take a moment to let that sink in because there is more.
Due to the limitations of the consent decree the NPSB had little choice but to keep us in the dark on the inner workings of their plan to get our schools on the right track. The NPSB was required to submit different courses of action and leave the decision for our schools in the hands of a federal judge who has zero skin in the game as it applies to our community. So, even though members may have been aware of proposals on the table, they were unaware of which proposal would be the approved model to move forward with.
I still affirm, as I did in the meeting, that the proposed solutions could have been part of an Educational Model Information session to teachers and parents alike to inform the public of educational solutions that are emerging across our country today. I would have been significantly more comfortable with at least having had that however, I can only speculate to the reasons it did not occur and must entrust that the board did the best they could given the conditions we were under.
For a large part many of the parents and teachers in the meeting exhibited a feeling of helplessness when it comes to the education of our children and a lack of confidence in the administration. I am not aware of any collaborative sessions for teachers and parents with the NPSB to keep us abreast of the NPSB mission, vision, and desired outcomes. This is a simple solution in the right direction to build trust between the parties that are truly effected and the NPSB. As it was brought up by one Parish resident, “I got calls every day, multiple times a day, when the board wanted a tax passed. Yet nothing when it came to this. Instead a text message to notify me the decision was being made tonight.”
So now we are free from the consent decree. We had chance at the end of the meeting to finally move forward freely and of our own accord without the limitations of the decree and potentially under new leadership. Natchitoches, we missed an opportunity that night to move to a month-to-month contract for our current Superintendent and start solicitation for a new one. The board, by very close vote, chose to extend the Superintendent’s contract for two more years. Just because that is the way we have done business in the past doesn’t mean that is the best way, we need change.
There appeared to be an apathetic approach to change and at one point the statement was made to the effect of, “if you have a better solution bring it to the table.” I do, because I still fear that this model will isolate low-SES families from being active in the children’s education and may make room to trim teachers, despite us being reassured otherwise.
– Give teachers better collaborative tools and venues to conduct knowledge and teaching technique sharing to raise the level.
– Identify schools that have higher teacher to student ratios and distribute teacher positions to ensure the ratio is even in all districts.
– Invest more in teacher development, retention, and talent acquisition. This requires a hard look at salaries, working conditions and environment, and benefits which are simply not part of the current model.
Just to start things off.
This brings me to what comes next Natchitoches Parish. The change is coming, we have no control over that. We weren’t afforded a voice in the decision either. We do have the chance to change it next year on the ballot though. It is my intent to study the changes that are coming. I have already noticed that “the research states” is a common phrase when pitching this new educational model. I am yet to find one peer- reviewed scholarly article that pertains to this topic. The only articles I have found on the topic are either opinion articles sold as fact or news articles about this model being implemented in other areas of the country.
I still have a significant amount of questions and I do believe there may be some unforeseen circumstances to this. The public was assured this would have no effect on our teachers. I still remain skeptical of that. I do not see why this wouldn’t have an effect on the current model of our board structure though. Our current model was set in place to ensure that under-represented populations had representation at the table. From the little information I can find, this educational model that is being implemented completely nullifies that need for representation at the board level which I find alarming. One day I will be reliant on the youth of this community that are in elementary grades right now. I want to make sure we have people on the board and in our Superintendent seat that recognize the need to grow educated leaders and mentors and are willing to LEAD us to that outcome rather than being forced to do so under a consent decree. We’ve got a year to watch this unfold, please take copious notes neighbors, time to vote will be here before you know it.
The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Natchitoches Parish Journal. If you have an article or story of interest for publishing consideration by the NPJ, please send it to NPJNatLa@gmail.com.