Governor Jindal has made the improvement of our public schools the top priority of his second term. He has promised bold reform. Thank you, Governor.
Constructive change requires understanding, however. How many of the officials who will help craft a new direction for pre-K to 12 have first-hand knowledge of what a 21st century public school classroom is like?
For that reason, the state legislature should ask each of its members, all statewide elected officials and members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to substitute teach in a Louisiana public school at least one time in 2012. I’m not talking about speaking 20 minutes to a civics class. I mean being an actual substitute teacher-just the public official and 25 kids-for a full day.
Most Louisiana public school systems have a shortage of available substitutes. I’ve been a volunteer substitute teacher for several years in the East Baton Rouge Parish public schools. I’ve taught 6th, 7th and 11th graders. I learned a lot.
One of the things I learned was that is harder to be a teacher today than when I grew up. That’s why it’s critical to put the best teacher we can in every classroom. Most teachers start around 6:45 a.m., teach an average of five classes, often are assigned lunch room, recess or bus duty, and then have to prepare for the next day. Many are coaches of athletic teams or advisors to school clubs, and are available out of class to answer students’ questions or provide extra help. Teachers today are also expected to be social workers, psychologists, counselors and, too often, parental substitutes.
It’s also harder to teach today because of the problem of discipline in the classroom. A single misbehaving student can disrupt an entire class, and too often teachers do not receive support from school administrators or parents in making a student behave.
I also learned that it is harder to be a kid today. 6th and 7th graders in our public schools now experience things I never saw until I was an adult. An 11-year-old should not have to confront challenges like illicit drugs, alcohol, tobacco, teenage pregnancy, bullying, gang violence and parental indifference, but too many do every day in our public schools. Most of us believe, or should believe, that every child can learn, given the opportunity, but try substitute teaching just once and you will see firsthand the socioeconomic issues that distract our kids from taking advantage of that opportunity.
In the past I’ve suggested several times that the legislature ask elected officials to substitute teach. Some of my colleagues have laughed at me. They won’t laugh, however, if they try it, because there’s nothing funny about public education in Louisiana and America today. If improvements to our public schools begin in the classroom, as we know they do, shouldn’t we ask our state officials to spend some time there? They’ll learn more about public education in one day of substitute teaching than by reading entire volumes of policy reports.
MAY 21 Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos writes about the Mother's Day shooting, and how the stages of shock and blame and healing mirror those traveled by the same city following Hurricane Katrina. The city will recover, just as it did following the storm, by reaching out to help the people injured most seriously by the event, DuBos writes. It's how we heal, he says.
MAY 21 Here's a post on the Advocate (but buried on a subpage, not on the front) that reports something Louisiana Voice reported some time ago: a top DOE official lives in Los Angeles and "commutes" to Baton Rouge. The positioning of the story caused a stir on Facebook Monday, with several posters asking if the Advocate was covering someone's hiney. Sentell's stories on DOE are notoriously soft, and this one is no different: don't expect any hard questions in here.
MAY 21 Here's another post from blogger Tom Aswell about the "course choice" program. He's already reported on kids being signed up without their consent or knowledge, and has more here: For example, he tells of a six-year-old who was signed up for high school Latin. He also digs a little deeper into the sister companies of the main one operating in Louisiana; all of them seem to have complaints against them. Stinky.
MAY 21 Given the 80 percent cut in higher ed funding since he's been in office, it's clear Gov. Jindal would rather give tax cuts to out of state companies than have a functioning system, blogger Dayne Sherman argues in this post. The cuts have been such a disaster, Sherman says, that it will take 30 years to fix what's been broken. He says he believes the aim is to shut down most of the schools before Jindal leaves in 2016.
MAY 21 Blogger CB Forgotston says there are too many elections in Louisiana, and they're costing us too much money. The proof is in the pudding: turnout for most of these nonsensical pollings gets worse and worse, CB opines, even as millions of dollars that could be spent on health care or higher ed go down the tubes. The legislature must take action to stem the tide of pointless elections, he says.
MAY 21 Here's an interesting investigative piece by WVUE on the retirement benefits of some Jefferson Parish public employees. According to the story, the taxpayers are paying 100 percent of the retirement contributions of employees who started work prior to a certain date in April 1986 -- and have done for more than 30 years. It costs the parish millions annually, and might not be legal, the story reports.
MAY 21 This post on Bayou Buzz provides insight from Louisiana's intrepid pollster, Bernie Pinsonat, on the winners and losers from this year's legislative session. But to hear Bernie tell it, there's almost nuttin but losers: Jindal, the Republican party, the Fiscal Hawks all get big goose eggs in his win column.
MAY 20 This post on The Lens takes a look at a huge (either $500K or $250K) bill that one NOLA charter now has for school lunches. The RSD says the charter group didn't fill out the proper paperwork for federal reimbursement, but the story details how the RSD didn't ensure the people running the charter had the proper training, despite requests from hapless charter employees trying to fill out forms. Either way, somebody's asleep at the wheel.
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.