Valerie McGinley’s 15-year-old son started 10th grade on Monday, but his sister and three step-siblings could sleep in, riding out the varying lengths of their summer vacations.Insane. How does one even keep up?
The first day of classes in New Orleans is anything but traditional for the city’s 46,000 public school students, with 19 different start dates ranging from July 20 to Aug. 26. It’s actually over 115 different starts when including those that stagger grades by time and date.
And it’s not just the first day of school that’s disjointed.
The decentralized system’s 43 governing boards, which operate a combined 82 schools, each create calendars of breaks, teacher-training days and other time off during the year.
Keeping all those calendars straight?
“It’s insane,” McGinley said. “We have kids with three [calendars], sometimes four …” she said.
So the answer is one doesn't. Although communities of parents do try to cooperate sometimes by sharing child care responsibilities or even just information such as through the "common calendar" project described in this article.The varying days off and start times can make things difficult, coordinating pick-ups and who’s taking off when the kids are out of school. McGinley said she’s lucky because she has a fairly flexible university job.“I can’t imagine any parent who is an hourly worker having to deal with this,” she said, wondering about potential lost wages or inflexible supervisors.
But that isn't going to solve everyone's problem. In fact, the system is designed in such a way to make it nearly unsovlable. Jennifer Bershire described this a few weeks ago in a conversation with parent advocate Christy Rosales-Fajardo.
Fajardo is convinced that parents actually have less power in New Orleans today than they did under the previous school system. She argues that eliminating neighborhood schools has also eliminated the power of parents to come together as part of a community. “Parents are fighting individual battles with these schools and they’re all petrified of what will happen to their kids,” she says. Meanwhile, principals in the new autonomous landscape are more powerful than ever, functioning more like CEOs who report to hand-picked nonprofit boards. “That’s the power shift,” says Fajardo.How do parents and educators come together to meet the systemic challenge of making the schools work in New Orleans when nobody can agree on when classes begin? This is where the past 10 years of "reform" has left us.
Meanwhile, what will the next 10 year of education in New Orleans look like? If you're coming to Rising Tide X you can talk about it with these people.
Panel Discussion: Education in New Orleans: The Next 10 Years
For the last 10 years, New Orleans has played the blame game in education.
Reformers have shamed the past to argue for change. In return, reform has been charged with destroying public education for future children. The aftermath of Katrina should have incited passions. However, everyone seems to have profited from the debate except for public school families—the people who need more than just words.
Durable arguments have concretized into an immovable tableau that gets in the way of both justice and progress. Pointing fingers to say who did what to who doesn’t solve problems. Progress forces us to ask where do we go from here.
This session will ask participants where should New Orleans education head in the next 10 years.
Moderator: Andre Perry, Columnist
Amanda Aiken, Principal of Crocker Elementary
Sharon Clark, Principal of Sophie B. Wright Charter School
Karran Harper Royal, Parent Advocate
Jamar MckNeely, CEO of the Inspire Network
Dana Peterson, Deputy Superintendent, Recovery School District
Lamont Douglass, Parent and PTA Member at Wilson Elementary
Rising Tide X is August 29, 2015 at Xavier University. Check out the rest of the website for details about the extensive program. You can go for free this year but please register here. If you'd like to help defray the cost of production or order swag, there's a separate GoFundMe page here.