Orleans Parish Educational Future meets
The Wrath of Kahn[i]
© 2011 By Wayne D. Lewis, Sr.
In an earlier blog, [iii] I discussed what I thought was an important run-off election for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE as it is affectionately called. The run-off pitted two outstanding candidates, 2 African-American women, who, from a historical perspective, were significant achievers in their own right, Ms. Louella Givens, and Ms. Kira Orange Jones. What we knew of Ms. Givens at the time of the run-off was that she was the incumbent, having represented District 2 before it’s redistricting for 8 years. What we knew of Ms. Jones at the time of the run-off, was that she was a Teach For America[iv] Executive, whom reports strongly suggested, was either endorsed by or closely aligned with the policies of Governor Bobby Jindal.
The run-off however, presented more than just 2 black professional women facing one another to improve the quality of education for District 2 of the BESE Board. It appeared to have been more about the control of the local board(s) more specifically, the Orleans Parish School Board vs. the State of Louisiana’s control of schools, and the vast amount of money that is supposedly on the table to award contracts, develop Charter Schools, and other areas at the point of contention, for power. A 273 vote-difference decided that Ms. Jones would become the BESE Board representative for District 2.[v] Chief of this controversial election, which was not just for District 2, but other BESE Board districts as well, was/is, current Governor of the State of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal [vi].
Governor Jindal just won his second term, virtually unopposed, or having won by such a significant amount, that it appeared to be unopposed. His role in the District 2’s BESE Board election comes as controversially as anything that he has ever done.
A newsstory of nola.com reported that , “Jindal also has three appointees on the board. And though he did not endorse Orange Jones or (Carolyn) Hill (A Baton Rouge Social Worker) -- both of whom are Democrats who ran in minority districts -- both are seen as more in line with Jindal's views on education than either of their opponents.” [vii]
To me, the significance of this past run-off election is the subsequent impact that can be expected as a result of the New Orleans’ area failure to continue to embrace or even support Governor’s Jindal’s plans for education, in the perceived form of Ms. Jones. Or, it can be said that the majority of New Orleans failure to support Ms. Givens, for which under her watch, teachers were laid off after Katrina without due process; state take over of local schools occurred, and Charter Schools bloomed overwhelmingly. Does this suggest that she was not the best choice? Did Ms. Givens represent reform from the millions of dollars that were reported lost/stolen during pre-Katrina years[viii], or did she represent protecting students from the continued impact of The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001?[ix] One of the controversies was the appointment of John White, the replacement to Paul Pasterek, former Superintendent of the Recovery School District.[x] Now, as reports strongly suggest, John White was in contention for State Superintendent of Louisiana Schools. Mr. White’s qualifications continue to be in question by many who believe that despite his experience as a District Superintendent in New York Schools, he lacks much of the reported needed experience to run not only the diminishing local control of New Orleans area schools, but also LA State-run schools. All of this push back from the locals in the New Orleans area is sure to set the stage for the repeat of retaliation by Governor Jindal. Thus, the ensuing Wrath of Kahn comparison. Here is a snapshop of Governor Jindal since 2007.
If taken one by one, the above situations from the bulleted-list may not signal any vindictive behavior by Governor Jindal. But historically, Governor Jindal has either targeted or overlooked Orleans Parish with respect to education and recovery, to say the least. Despite his 38% win in New Orleans, it appears to still signal to him that New Orleans does not favor a Jindal Administration, given the 1st four years, i.e. the closing of the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital, the disbursement of recovery dollars to any location other than Orleans, although the monies were reportedly turned down, accepted on and then taken credit for under other means. New Orleans is not on Governor Jindal’s nice list, to use a Santa Claus reference. We here in New Orleans are on the naughty list, if for no other reason, we disagree with Governor Jindal’s Conservative views and policies.
So, here we are. 2012 is coming, and the one thing that we could have done to stand up against his continued take-over of Orleans Parish education, may have been squandered at the voting booth. Is that to say that Orleans Parish would not have suffered retaliation had we voted for Ms. Jones outright? I believe, not at all. The opportunity to protect the future of our children was long ago squandered, before Governor Jindal. When millions of dollars went missing from Orleans Parish Schools, when social promotion was the order of the day, and when Orleans Parish School Board members only allowed you to speak for 3 minutes at the Orleans Parish school Board meetings, and acted without regard to parent’s wishes or input. Sounds familiar? What is the difference between now and then?
Whatever the difference, the common denominator is our children. And with our children being the common denominator, Governor Jindal is the multiplier. He and the Conservative Party are set to take over the education of Orleans Parish Schools and take it from local control of the parents, of the teachers, and of those who opposed him/them. This previously under written election of BESE Board representatives was the one opportunity for locals to demonstrate that they had a handle on the outcome of their children’s education. I could be wrong, but I believe now, that they have failed, and the sad thing about it is, Governor Jindal will still exact his revenge for our failure as a community to vote overwhelmingly for his candidates, for his policies, and/or for him.
Ms. Givens, for what it is worth, represented one of the best opportunities we as a community needed to have who did not appear to walk lock-step with every policy presented or exacted in the operation of local schools. I believe that she would have played a very progressive role in reform, but not without raising questions about how our children would have been effected immediately, and/or for the long term.
Ms. Jones, on the hand, a young, up and coming professional, who has reportedly been involved in the education of our children for a number of years as well, and an executive who has participated in the placement of educators, filled with new ideas, will no doubt work very hard to make an impression on those in control of our schools. Where I feel Ms. Jones may fall short is how aggressively she will protect and defend our children from polices that seek to exclude, deny, or provide a high quality of education to all of our children, regardless of the political positions of their parents.
Never so much would I like to be wrong about the direction that our children’s education is about to go, but I don’t think so. Correct me if I am wrong.
In conclusion, The Wrath of Kahn[xvii] is about to be taken to another level, via the Jindal Administration, and the amount of time it will take to turn back the residual effect will be well past his administration, because the BESE Board position is for 4 years. Get ready for change, and it ain’t going to be pretty. You have been warned.
Conspiracy Theory #410.