Poor students, ineffective teachers & the politics of reorganization
The situation at Acadian Middle is dire. With issues ranging from an over-aged population of students, rapidly dwindling performance scores and a staff ill-equipped to handle the demands of a high poverty student base, the school’s principal is calling for a clean slate.
Acadian Middle’s principal is Linda Nance, a veteran educator brought in this year by Lafayette Schools Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper to turn the failing school around.
According to data presented during Wednesday’s meeting, between the 2008-09 and the 2011-12 school years, Acadian Middle’s performance scores have plummeted from 85.1 to 76.2. The latter score, according to Louisiana’s accountability rating system, equals a D rating, which is just 1.2 points above what the state deems failing.
“I started here Jan. 7, and within two weeks I was very aware of issues with teachers in the classroom,” Nance told the school board during its meeting Wednesday. “The problem is we have too many teachers who don’t know how to work with students of poverty.”
That’s not to say those teachers are bad teachers, says Nance, just that Acadian Middle is a type of school that requires a certain type of teacher.
Nance says based on her extensive experience as an educator, reconstitution is the only option that will bear positive results.
Based on LPSS’ policy concerning reconstitution, a minimum of 25 percent of the school’s teachers must be retained, leaving the jobs of the remaining 75 percent up in the air. Nance estimates 50 percent of the existing faculty would be retained if the board approves reconstituting Acadian Middle.
One vocal supporter of Nance’s request was board member Tommy Angelle. Describing a recent visit to Acadian Middle, Angelle told his fellow board members: “I felt the sense of urgency. I think they need help. I like the idea of letting [Nance] choose her staff and just take the ball and run with it. And I will be the first to be critical if it doesn’t work.”
The one board member most opposed to reorganizing the near-failing school is the board member who represents Acadian Middle's district. That board member is Tehmi Chassion, who's been distracted from the real business of the board lately to lead the charge against Cooper's hiring of Thad Welch, the special assistant to the superintendent for facilities, maintenance, grounds and transportation, allegedly over his lack of a high school diploma. Chassion was successful Wednesday in garnering support from four fellow board members to pull funding from the position. Cooper, however, says Welch will remain on the job and that he'll find funding from another source.
Chassion credited his resistance to a shake-up at Acadian Middle to his experience with last year’s reconstitution of Northside High, also in his district.
Reconstitution, arguably, is among the best ways to help student achievement in a non-effective school, yet Chassion says his resistance to the idea has nothing to do with the impact it would have on the school’s students. He's more concerned about the teachers:
"I hate that reconstitution concept," he said Wednesday night. "At Northside, we had a situation. There were a lot of good teachers at Northside who came cry to me at my doorstep asking, “Am I ineffective?” Two months seems like it’s not enough time to just decide reconstitution. Why not just help those teachers ... instead of pushing them off on someone else."
It would be difficult to overstate the positive impact reconstitution has had on Northside.
Cooper, who also played a major role in sparking Northside’s reorganization, says the students cannot afford to wait. "We can’t keep spending all our time second-guessing," he said. "We need to be more supportive of these principals. I hope the board will just allow the educators to educate."
The issue is expected to come back before the board at its next meeting in two weeks.
Click here to read more on the impact of Northside's reorganization on the school's accountability rating.
MAY 22 This post was written the day after the second line shooting in NOLA, by Brentin Mock. Mock is a friend of Deb "Big Red" Cotton, a blogger who was shot in the back and was seriously injured. It is a raw, emotional piece of writing, something the writer obviously felt he needed to get off his chest. But it raises questions that can't be easily dismissed, and might give some insight into where the source of these events truly is.
MAY 22 In this Baton Rouge Business Report post, Rolfe McCollister considers the privatization of bus service in Baton Rouge. After decades of under-funding, it is a mess, and although a tax (partially) passed last year, improvement hasn't happened yet. McCollister apparently feels it is time to let private business get in on the transit business.
MAY 22 This post on Bayou Buzz by Jeff Crouere urges the defeat of a bill that would grant modest pay increases over the next several years to the state's judges and clerks of court. The state is in no position to fund pay hikes, Crouere argues, with the pay increases costing a total of $9 million over several years. It sends the wrong message to the (proverbial) hard-working people of Louisiana, he says.
MAY 22 The Advocate reports here that State Treasurer John Kennedy is complaining about a meeting of the corporation that oversees the state's tobacco settlement. The Governor wanted it restructured, and he has some support, but not a lot. The corporation agreed with his plan, but Kennedy didn't, and it appears that the meeting was noticed in a manner completely different than that of all previous meetings. Kennedy's given to hyperbole, but in this case the fish don't smell too fresh.
MAY 22 In this Advocate story, Carencro Police Chief Carlos Stout says the recent federal indictment of a strip club owner is all wrong. The indictment alleges that drugs and prostitution went on with impunity because club staff made arrangements with "local" police. Stout says it never happened, and while his cops do work security in the parking lot, they're not allowed inside.
MAY 22 This amusing post in DIG Baton Rouge recounts an ad that ran on Craig's List recently; the advertiser was seeking tenants for a Beauregard Town house. He knew his market, and wrote an ad that the most ironical hipster couldn't resist. Apparently, he really did know his market, because the ad worked like a charm.
MAY 22 In this post in The Lens, Mark Moseley comments on the rhetoric Gov. Jindal employed in trying to save his tax "reform" package. One interesting point concerns Jindal's use of his brother, Nikesh, in a little story. Nikesh left Louisiana because of his inability to get a decent job, the story goes, but the story won't hold water: Nikesh lives in DC, which has an income tax level comparable to Louisiana, Moseley says. If income taxes caused the dismal situation, it should exist in DC too. Right?
MAY 22 This post by columnist John Maginnis traces the trajectory of the bill that would fund construction at community and technical colleges -- and bypass the Board of Regents and traditional higher ed funding mechanisms. Sure, it will bust the legislature's self-imposed debt limit, but some leges feel that there's more need (because there is more growth) in the community and technical college area than in the university area, he says.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.