Wednesday, March 9, 2011

C’EST BON
Dr. Pat Cooper carried an inspiring message of nontraditional education reform to a sold-out crowd recently at the United Way of Acadiana’s annual awards banquet. A former teacher and state Department of Education supervisor, Cooper worked as a superintendent in West Feliciana Parish and McComb, Miss., and now administers an early education center in New Orleans. He is implementing a coordinated school health program that focuses on poverty-stricken children from birth to 5 years old receiving solid developmental training — and health care resources — to ensure that underprivileged, and often underperforming, children are ready and able to learn when they begin public school. His model is backed by astounding numbers that have shown complete turnarounds on high school graduation rates and teen pregnancy rates in the districts where the program has been in place. After Cooper captivated the UW audience, The Independent Weekly was among the news organizations honored with the UW media partner award for its efforts to bring the Waiting for Superman documentary to Lafayette for two sold-out screenings.

PAS BON
State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek was diplomatic in his word choice when he talked with our and The Daily Advertiser’s editorial boards recently, but still conveyed a message of disappointment in the Lafayette Parish School System’s decision to not consult with him before deciding to shut down N.P. Moss, the district’s lowest-performing school. Rather than take the chance of losing N.P. Moss to the state, LPSS chose instead to close Moss and reopen it as Thibodaux Career and Technical High School next year. Pastorek told The Independent Weekly that despite having been academically unacceptable for the past three years, there may have been a way to save the school from state takeover had Superintendent Burnell Lemoine simply contacted him. Pastorek said he has allowed three unacceptable schools eligible for takeover in the state to continue operating under their respective districts. Although the state’s top education official said LPSS has some achievements to be proud of, Pastorek also implied additional frustrations with LPSS’ unwillingness to work with the state education department and described the Lafayette school district as doing a “traditional job.”

COUILLON
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has been the go-to punching bag for Louisiana politicians frustrated with the slow pace of permitting for the energy industry and/or eager to score political points back home. Freshman Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, has been a Salazar gadfly, berating the secretary as recently as last week during a hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee. But his fellow Louisiana House mate, Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, one-upped Landry during last week’s hearing, dropping a conspiracy theory that would make paranoia blush. Fleming wondered if the permitting pace is “really an overall policy by the administration to allow gas prices to go up, to allow energy prices, fossil fuels, to go up, by constricting fossil fuel production in order to allow alternative fuels, which are not really cutting it in the marketplace, to allow those prices to come into parity, to become more competitive?”

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