Dirty South Bureau

October 4, 2006

A great education experiment

(My readers will have to pardon that this post was temporarily removed from the site. I was working on an interview with Robin Jarvis of the RSD that I got and will post shortly, and didn’t want to play my hand unneccesarily.)

Well, school is allegedly starting at the 53 public schools set to reopen this fall, and good luck understanding the array of acronyms, start dates and regulatory variances coming out of the mess that the state has created by taking over some, but not all of the New Orleans Public Schools, and turning some into charters.

What is actually going on in the new Recovery School District? It is difficult to tell, because several of the teachers I’ve talked to who work in these schools are terrified that they will be fired if they talk to anyone. However, one teacher I know sent this e-mail out:

I don’t think I want any more surprises. I can’t believe this scenario any more, and the students haven’t even come to school yet to add to the drama. School offically begins for the Recovery School District this coming Thursday. Tomorrow, Labor Day, is my first day allowed into my school. The conditions beyond the F-word at the entrance of the school are being described as primitive by my principal. My little school house has been under a slow construction process to recovery from the flooding it sustained for a month in(detail deleted for privacy purposes) . As of Friday, there was no floor and no doors hung on the first floor. No desks, no books or any materials are anywhere. For weeks my roommates have tolerated my collection of teaching leftovers waiting in limbo in our living room area hoping to find a room of their own.

Meanwhile, I just completed my second week straight of seminars at a local university since they had to do something with the hundreds of teachers throughout the district in a similar situation. At night I’ve been reading professional books, preparing quarterly plans, and making lots of lists to prepare as much as possible to teach physical science, life science, and earth science. This past Friday morning I finally was able to have my first meeting just with members of my specific school. Many new surprises were revealed. The first one was, “Oh, and you’ll also have to teach 110 minutes of math at the end of the day to sixth graders.”

I am so disheartened. They just increased my workload by 25% and lessened my ability to accomplish much with this convoluted curriculum.

The rest was more of the same. This week I also had the opportunity to talk with Brenda Mitchell, president of United Teachers of New Orleans, as well as a public school teacher of 28 years who went into retirement rather than work in the new system.

Brenda Mitchell, UTNO 1

Lorraine Jones, former public school teacher 1

Looks like the state has done a heck of a job yet again with a city and a demographic that it wants to get rid of. Forget seceding from the United states- I am beginning to think that more and more that the people destroying New Orleans are not just in Washington but in Baton Rouge and Shreveport as well.

And, unfortunately, in New Orleans. I did this interview last December with Jim Randalls, education guru and co-founder of Students at the Center. Jim gives an explanation of the historical roots of the problems that we are facing.

Jim Randalls 1 2