The mood was upbeat at McDonogh No. 35 High School Thursday (Aug. 25) as Orleans Parish schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. presented a plan to unify the city's bifurcated education system by 2018.Of course budgets are a problem. But aside from that, we missed a real opportunity to make this process more about the nature of public education itself this year, when we ended up with only three of the seven OPSB seats contested in the fall election.
Comprised almost entirely of independent charter schools, the new-and-improved district "will be the first of its kind in the nation," Lewis told an advisory committee, "dedicated to empowering families, empowering educators, ensuring equity and dramatically improving student outcomes."
But though the committee members lauded the 72-page document, they were anxious about -- what else. Money.
That's a problem given the continuing hostility of charter boards toward teachers, and what may be the beginnings of a movement against charters more generally. New Orleans is again missing an opportunity to participate at the leading edge of the discourse. Instead the plan reflects a will so stay the course. Rather than taking over the school system directly, the new OPSB will mostly just grant and renew charters. Actually, the superintendent will do that.
Lewis might have an easier time holding schools accountable, because the unification law shifts power from the school board to the superintendent. It will take a two-thirds School Board vote, not a simple majority, to override "all decisions related to school opening, renewal and closure," the plan states.Seems like a mistake.