Education Advocates Lack Confidence in Superintendent Search, Urges Board to Start Over

Dear Members of the Orleans Parish School Board – Ethan Ashley, Nolan Marshall, Jr., Katherine Baudouin, Carlos Luis Zervigon, Dr. Jancarlos Wagner Romero, and Olin G Parker.

We write to you as a concerned and united group of youth, parents, and community members who have witnessed the ongoing destruction of public education primarily at the hands of this very body. Nearly every decision by this current composition of the board, the boards led by the outgoing superintendent, Henderson Lewis and boards under the leadership of John White (RSD) have been destructive to the long-term vitality of public education in general, and more specifically to the educational wellbeing of the youth and children in this city. 

Access to the highest quality public education is a right that poor and marginalized populations in this country have fought to secure for decades.   A strong public education system is central to the well-being of our city and the individuals in it.  The existence of which strengthens every inch of our community and every sector of employment while broadening life opportunities for every member of the community who moves through it.    And it is the responsibility of the school board is to be stewards of the full complement of resources that support and protect public education in New Orleans.  It is the responsibility of the school board to ensure access to the very best education that every single child in New Orleans deserves.  This requires policies and actions that strengthen to teachers, initiatives that respond to unique material needs of community, practices that welcome families as co-constructors of education, strong programs that build both the collective skill and critical intellectual capacities of our youth.   To take these responsibilities lightly is to gamble with the lives of the least powerful in our community; and it is to reinforce a state of inequity experienced by the working class of New Orleans. 

This is why we write this letter – out of deep love and concern for our youth, families, and communities.   If we are to honor them, we must challenge the decisions of the school board.   It is out of this deep abiding love for our youth, families, and communities, that we offer this critique.  

Over several weeks of “listening sessions” participant after participant, many of whom were Black parents, and others who were concerned Black citizens, shared with you how traumatic it was when the schools were hijacked by a cadre of education reformers who sold schools to the lowest bidder. 

We deserve transparency and answers.

The current school board needs to face the public to offer transparency.   We request a series of community forums – a total of 4 in each ward – for  students, parents, and community members where you respond to the following questions.  

Questions:   What criteria you did use to identify the initial list of 15 candidates? 

What criteria and process was used to further refine the pool to a list of seven candidates? 

What criteria and process will be used to decide on the finalists? 

Given the actions of this body as it relates to the selection process, and the slate of seven candidates currently under consideration, we no longer have  faith that the board acting alone will select a superintendent who meets our needs or reflects the desire of the community.  

We request a new participatory selection process – rooted in the true inclusive spirit and democratic values of public education.  

  1. Declare this process a failed search 
  2. Right the course by re-constituting the selection committee to be reflective of this community. We propose the following community representatives on a newly formed hiring committee:
    1. Two representatives from Step-Up Louisiana
    2. Two representatives from Rethink New Orleans
    3. Two representatives from Erase the Board
    4. Two members of OPSB
    5. Elizabeth Jeffers, PhD
    6. Mama Jennifer Turner
  3. We propose a series of community forums – 4 in each ward – where the hiring committee will engage with students, parents, and community members at each stage of the process as a practice of transparency necessary for the rebuilding of public trust.  
  4. Once the field is narrowed to three, we request regular forums – a total 4 in each ward – where the three finalists engage with students, parents, teachers, and community members.   The selection committee will garner feedback from each forum.  This feedback will determine the next superintendent.  

We can be a powerful force if we move as a collective force to ensure that the School Board in this city live up to its responsibilities. 

Thank you, 

Champions of New Orleans Public Education

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