Pastorek: Lafayette positioned to be a leader in public education
State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek says Lafayette is probably in a better position than any other city in the state to achieve world class education in its public schools, if school leaders can create the right environment for progress. Louisiana's chief public education official spoke Wednesday night at LEDA at a meeting of The 705 community organization of young professionals. The event was also attended by several of the non-incumbent candidates running for school board (it took place during the school board's meeting), most of whom expressed support for Pastorek's plans.
Pastorek said there are two systemic problems in the state's education system today: The school system is a monopoly with little competition from charter schools and there is a counterproductive habit of shifting blame to students and their parents for the system's shortcomings. "I'm sick of us blaming it on parents and kids, especially poor ones," Pastorek said, "because I know it can be done."
"If we can fix these two problems," he added, "you'll see public education rise dramatically and this is the best city in the state to see that happen." Pastorek noted that there are more kids who pass the eighth grade LEAP test that end up dropping out of school in Lafayette than anywhere else in the state, by a wide margin. "It's not academics that are holding kids back in Lafayette," he said. "This is a target rich environment."
Greg Davis, a candidate in District 2, asked Pastorek if one of his campaign platforms, achieving a 95 percent graduation rate, was attainable, and how long it might take for a parish like Lafayette, with its current graduation rate of about 67 percent, to achieve that. Pastorek responded that he thought a 95 percent graduation rate was attainable in eight years time, if the community rallies around that goal and holds its leaders accountable. Pastorek also said research shows the state needs higher-quality teachers — a focus of the state's recent Race To The Top proposal — and needs to foster more teacher mentoring and professional development.
Asked how Lafayette could best utilize its unique citywide fiber-to-the-home telecommunications network to advance education opportunities, Pastorek replied simply, "I don't know. But there's people a lot smarter than me that do." He said the best strategy would involve local grassroots initiatives that brought in key partners from the IT and business community. This type of ingenuity, he says, has been a cornerstone of the state's charter schools, which largely operate independent of district school boards and administrations. "You know what happens in schools where they don't have a bunch of administrators telling them what to do and how to do it? They get creative," he said. "If you had 41 charter schools in Lafayette, you'd have more creativity and initiative than you could handle."
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
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.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.