In The News › Teachers need greater role in decision-making, Jefferson Parish superintendent says

Oct 19, 2011

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Jefferson Parish, Schools

Teachers need greater role in decision-making, Jefferson Parish superintendent says

October 18, 2011
By Barri Bronston
The Times-Picayune
With contract negotiations between the Jefferson Parish School Board and its teachers union set to begin next spring, the two sides agree on at least one issue: Teachers need to be more involved in decision-making. “We feel that teachers are left out of decision-making,” interim schools Superintendent James Meza said Tuesday at a breakfast briefing of the Bureau of Governmental Research at the Sheraton Metairie Hotel. “Teachers should have a voice not only in terms of curriculum but of resource allocation.”
Although Meza touched only briefly on the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations, Meladie Munch, president of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, said she is pleased he recognizes the lack of involvement among teachers. Munch attended the meeting with several members of her staff and, during a question-and-answer period, told the audience of business leaders, public officials and others that teachers need to be trusted to help move Louisiana’s 51st-ranked system forward.
“We are all about meeting the needs of students,” she said. “But teachers haven’t been included in the discussions about what they feel will meet the needs of the students.
“I’m glad that Dr. Meza wants to include teachers in collaborative planning,” she said. “The teachers are the educational leaders for the students in our system. Our teachers are all about moving minds and leading change.”
Change was the theme of Meza’s speech, which he has given countless times since taking the helm of Jefferson Parish public schools on July 1.
He began with statistics, pointing out how Jefferson has gone from a suburban district to an urban district in the past 30 years, with 76 percent of its 46,500 students now considered poor under federal law.
As the demographics have changed, he said, “We have not met the needs of our minority population who are the majority of the students in our system. We cannot continue to do things as we’ve done. We’re a system that is failing children.”
Under the latest round of school performance scores, 59 of the system’s 89 schools received Ds or Fs. “That’s tragic and unacceptable,” he said.
His reforms include laying off teachers based on performance evaluations instead of seniority, firing principals who don’t meet their state-assigned growth target after two years and opening at least one non-alternative charter school next year.
He also plans to reduce the top-heavy central office and bring services and people directly to the schools.
“We don’t need consultants in the central office, or coordinators,” he said. “We need people who can support the people who are on the firing line everyday.”
Through site-based management, he said, principals are now doing their own budgeting and hiring as well as choosing the curriculum that best meets the needs of the students.
Over the years, he said, the system has spent millions of dollars on programs without doing the proper research to determine if they work.
“We have to begin to evaluate not only the personnel in the system but the programs and practices that we are using in our system,” he said.
Although Munch is opposed to some aspects of the layoff policy, she did agree that programs should be researched before they are introduced in the schools.
“Up to this point, we’re not sure what has been working and what has not been working,” she said.
Munch said she is glad teachers will be allowed to weigh in on academic programs, as they are the ones who know their students best.
“Early childhood education is the answer to a lot of these problems,” she said. “If we can get those children where they need to be by the third grade, those children will be successful.”

Oct 19, 2011

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Jefferson Parish, Schools

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