In The News › Here’s what would-be superintendents say they plan for Orleans Parish public schools

Jan 16, 2015

Source: NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Schools

Here’s what would-be superintendents say they plan for Orleans Parish public schools

By Danielle Dreilinger

NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

January 16, 2015

The Orleans Parish School Board is scheduled to take another vote Tuesday on hiring a superintendent. This time, the white smoke might finally rise.

The finalists are Debbra Lindo and Henderson Lewis Jr. In order to make the hire, five of the board’s seven members must agree.

Lindo, 62, is a former superintendent of California’s Emery Unified School District, just north of Oakland, and also has run the national nonprofit College Track. Lewis, 40, is the East Feliciana Parish schools superintendent as well as a member of the School Board in St. Bernard Parish, where he lives. Public school activists hope the new leader can bring unity to a fractious School Board and maybe even to a city where the schools are split between state and local systems.

The school system has been without regular leadership for more than 2½ years. The School Board has considered a total of 10 finalists in the past 1½ years. The last time members voted, in August, they cleared the decks.

Since applying in December, Lindo and Lewis have run through a whirlwind set of interviews, plus a meet-and-greet with the public. They made brief presentations at those mixers, but their plans for the first 180 days are also laid out on paper.

Both would schedule lots of initial meetings and start creating a long-term strategic plan. Here’s a summary of what they say are their priorities:

Lindo would start the job in March, according to her handout. Her plan is heavy on listening and short on specifics, perhaps understandable given that she would be moving to unfamiliar territory. As her guide, she cites Anthony Muhammad’s book “Transforming School Culture,” which is subtitled “How to Overcome Staff Division.”

She lays out her guiding values and principles in detail, however. Among them: She tries to build relationships through “understand(ing) the ‘world’ of the people around me” and “assum(ing) everyone has best intentions.”

Lindo promises a 2015-16 roadmap by the time classes resume in August, to be accomplished through extensive reading of background material as well as conversations “with a broad cross-section of our community – to experience their hopes and dreams firsthand,” she writes.

“Our cause is success for every student, without exception,” she writes. That can be accomplished through “an ‘insane focus’ on trust and authentic relationships, continuous improvement of professional practices, responsive services and true voice for all stakeholders.”

Lewis’ plan zeroes in on the unconventional nature of the Orleans Parish school system, a mix of regular and charter schools, one just starting to regain the charters that the Louisiana Recovery School District seized after Hurricane Katrina. He emphasizes the need to ensure the central office is set up properly for its purposes. He also writes repeatedly of the importance of working closely with the Recovery system. For instance, the two administrations should create “a unified positive presence” for New Orleans public education.

Lewis would develop “a strong relationship of mutual respect between the superintendent and School Board so that the focus will remain on academic success for all students.” That’s a tacit acknowledgement of the board’s dysfunction, including a fight with interim Superintendent Stan Smith, that led some activists to complain the board was focusing on the wrong things.

He would assess contracting processes and finances, guided in part by 2013 recommendations from the Bureau of Governmental Research. He would also check teacher evaluation results to see whether their classroom ratings match their students’ academic progress.

“Becoming the superintendent of the Orleans Parish public schools is easy,” Lewis writes. “Restoring the public’s faith in the district’s ability to provide quality teaching and learning within safe environments is the very difficult part.”

Tuesday’s board meeting starts at 5 p.m. at McDonogh #35 High School, 1331 Kerlerec St. Members plan to discuss the two candidates in closed session before voting in public. Follow our liveblog of the vote at nola.com/education.

Jan 16, 2015

Source: NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Schools

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