BY WILL SENTELL | STAFF WRITER | The Advocate
Assistant State Superintendent of Education Jessica Baghian, center, talks to three year old Lillian W education leaders and local policymakers to the early childhood education center at Close to Hom Lafayette La
After a four-month hunt in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, Louisiana’s top school board is poised to name a new state superintendent of education.
Six finalists are in the mix, but two educators who represent different wings of the public schools debate remain favorites for the job, which is set to be filled on May 20.
They are Assistant State Superintendent of Education Jessica Baghian, who is seen as the favorite of school overhaul advocates, and Jefferson Parish schools superintendent Cade Brumley, who is believed to the choice of fellow superintendents, school board members and teacher unions.
The question is whether Baghian or Brumley can win the minimum eight votes needed for the job from the 11-member state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or whether a compromise candidate emerges.Those who will make the call are saying little in public.
"The BESE members are keeping it very close to the vest," said Brigitte Nieland, government affairs director for the advocacy group Stand for Children.None of the candidates have locked up the job.
"We do not have eight votes for any of the top candidates," said Sandy Holloway, president of BESE.
BESE member Kira Orange Jones, who leads the work group that has led the search, said it is unclear whether the race remains wide open or a consensus is developing.
"The truth is I don't know," Jones said. "It is hard to say. I think board members are certainly deliberating."
One of the other contenders, former St. James Parish schools superintendent Lonnie Luce, is mentioned as a dark horse candidate.
Luce, 51, also led the state's first online charter school, which means he has experience in both the traditional and new public school camps.
The other finalists are Heather Poole, 46, executive vice-chancellor of Central Louisiana Technical Community College in Alexandria; Joe Siedlecki, 44, associate commissioner for school system support, innovation and charters, Texas Education Agency and Paul Vallas, 66, former superintendent of the Recovery School District.
Holloway and others hope to agree on a superintendent on May 20, so he or she can be confirmed by the state Senate before adjournment on June 1.
At stake is one of the most powerful jobs in state government, and the leader of roughly 720,000 public school students.
The superintendent carries out BESE policies.
But the post also carries a huge influence in shaping student testing, teacher training and evaluations, whether charter schools flourish or flounder, school ratings, the role of vouchers and the direction of public schools after two decades of sweeping changes.
All eight of BESE's elected members were backed by business groups, which would seem to favor Baghian, 35, since business has generally backed the push to overhaul public schools since 2000.
Friends of Citizens For 1 Greater New Orleans,
First, we hope this email finds you and yours well and safe during this sad and strange time.
COVID-19 will continue to affect the way our State's students learn for the near future. As such, the impending selection of Louisiana's new Superintendent of Education is critical. It is imperative that this leader be a strong advocate for the best interests of our children, particularly during this time in which the methods through which, the content of, and accountability for, education administration are constantly changing.
We urge you to familiarize yourself with the 6 candidates for Superintendent and make your opinions known to the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).
BESE is inviting all stakeholders to complete a survey of recommended priorities that BESE should have when evaluating the slate of applicants for State Superintendent of Education, and we hope you will find the time to complete the survey. NOTE THE SURVEY WILL ONLY RUN THROUGH THIS FRIDAY - APRIL 24, 2020
Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans continues to support Education Reform.
Ruthie Frierson, Founder & Chair Emeritus
Abstract (New England Journal of Public Policy)
Many ingredients define New Orleans—certainly our music, our food, and our architecture, but most basic and defining of all is water and our relationship with it. Nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and an enormous body of brackish water, the fifty-by-thirty-mile Lake Pontchartrain, the city sits near the mouth of the Mississippi River, which drains water from 41 percent of the lower forty-eight states. We are pelted with an average sixty-five inches of rain a year; famously wet Seattle gets about half that amount. Much of our city is built on land a few feet below sea level, protected from the consequences of that location by a complex system of levees, floodwalls, pumps, and outfall canals. We all own multiple pairs of rain boots; we avoid certain intersections during thunderstorms because of the dangerously deep water that collects there. We New Orleanians know water. We also know corruption, another near-universal part of our city’s image. The fatalistic shrug with which locals receive allegations of improper dealings says, essentially, “What yah gonna do?” We laugh that, far from being the worst-governed city in the United States, we are the best-governed in the Caribbean. Roguish officials seem to have a place in many hearts. Wet and crooked, that was us.
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was the most catastrophic man-made disaster in the nation’s history. Katrina changed everything, and every one of us. It was a shock and a wake-up call. Having obeyed Mayor Ray Nagin’s order for a mandatory evacuation of the city, our family watched from afar as New Orleans went under water. We saw images of the city’s devastation, the horror of people trapped in their houses or on rooftops waiting for rescue, of people in need of water, food, and medical attention, of deaths, of plunder and the sounds of gunfire. Eighty percent of our city was under water for more than three weeks. Our infrastructure was almost completely destroyed—our public facilities, schools, homes, businesses. More than eighteen hundred of our citizens lost their lives and thousands of others were displaced. The challenges we faced to rebuild our city were daunting and unparalleled in our history—on so many levels, and all at the same time. Yet, out of this tragedy of Katrina’s aftermath have come opportunities and a new wave of activism and involvement.
BY JULIANNE NICE: MAR 27, 2020
Hurricane Katrina aftermath on Saturday, September 10, 2005.
Stephanie Grace’s recent column on Katrina lessons got me thinking about those we unfortunately didn’t learn very well but would help us today.
Our city, state, country, and the world are facing an unprecedented challenge in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). As many Americans are still coming to grips with the seriousness of this global pandemic and the need for action, we first hope that you and your family are safe and healthy.
New Orleans is dealing with one of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 in the nation, and the vigilance and compassion of every citizen will be necessary to slow the transmission of the disease and avoid overwhelming our hospitals with critical cases.
The Louisiana Legislature has voted to suspend the session until at least March 31. We agree with the decision, which will protect public health and ensure that all legislation under consideration has the opportunity to be considered in a public forum.
However, the economic impact of the necessary steps to combat this public health emergency will be dire for the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans. Our economy thrives on tourism and our vibrant service industry.
We are asking all citizens to contact our federal Louisiana Senators and urge them to pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This legislation passed the House of Representatives late last week and is currently awaiting a Senate vote.
CONTACT SENATORS Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy>
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act will provide assistance to Louisiana residents impacted by the novel coronavirus in the following ways:
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is likely the first step in the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There will also be state and local legislation that requires your support, as well as action steps we must all take to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus and protect our fellow citizens from this public health emergency.
Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans will continue to provide information as we receive it. Please encourage others you know to subscribe to our email distribution list to receive this information. There is no city or region better prepared for tackling a problem as large as the COVID-19 pandemic than New Orleans.
We will get through this together.
Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans is a proud Forward New Orleans (FNO) member, and today, FNO issued its First Progress Report on the 2018 Municipal Elections Platform. The Progress Report is an assessment of our elected officials’ work towards achieving the Platform’s objectives in six priority areas: public safety, infrastructure, economic opportunity, city services, city finance, and civil service.
Since 2010, FNO has developed issue-based platforms to shape the policy priorities within municipal elections. FNO seeks pledges of support for the Platform from mayoral and city council candidates, with those pledges becoming mandates for post-election action by elected officials. FNO issues regular progress reports that assess the City’s advancement towards fulfilling the Platform’s objectives, and this is the first report to measure the achievements of the Cantrell Administration and the current City Council since the 2018 municipal elections.
One of the most important issues facing the City of New Orleans is the need for repair and maintenance of critical infrastructure, specifically our streets, water, sewer, and drainage lines.
Improving our infrastructure will require significant funding, a difficult task for any community. Before raising taxes, perhaps we can identify existing funding sources that could be reallocated towards critical infrastructure. One such suggestion is explained in this op-ed from Janet Howard, a former President and CEO of BGR and long-time advocate for reform in the City of New Orleans.
Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans will be studying this issue carefully in 2020, and we will share information and calls to action with you as they arise.
Today, we mourn the loss and celebrate the life of John Martin, beloved member of our education committee. John was a passionate advocate for education reform in New Orleans. He always spoke truth to important matters and never wavered in his commitment to reform. He was our trusted chauffeur to Baton Rouge and often our sole representation at OPSB meetings. Our organization and the city of New Orleans will miss him dearly.
Obituary for John Clinton Martin, Jr.
Earlier this week, Louisiana State School Superintendent John White notified the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) of his decision to resign effective March 11, 2020, after eight years in the office.
Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans extends immense gratitude to Mr. White for his dedication to improving education in the state of Louisiana and we wish him well on his next endeavor. Our organization worked alongside Superintendent White to raise educational standards, increase funding for early childhood education, and secure the future of charter school reforms that have been instrumental in improving schools in New Orleans and across the state.
As we turn to the next chapter for Louisiana schools, we know that challenges remain. Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans will continue to monitor important policy decisions at BESE and developments in the legislature. We thank you for your commitment to public education, and we will continue to need your voices as matters arise this spring and beyond.
The Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR) expresses its gratitude to the nearly 800 supporters who attended its 2019 Annual Luncheon featuring bestselling author Michael Lewis on November 7th at the Marriott.
This year’s luncheon invited our guests to observe and participate in A Conversation with Michael Lewis. Lewis displayed his storytelling prowess as he captivated the audience with behind-the-scenes insights into his bestselling books, his process for choosing material, his pipeline of work and his thoughts on New Orleans today. Gordon Russell, managing editor of investigations for The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate, thoughtfully guided the conversation in an interview format. Following the interview, BGR board member and former WWL-TV anchor Dennis Woltering moderated a question-and-answer session with the audience.
Following the Annual Luncheon, The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate published this editorial, reflecting on the event.
Hancock Whitney Bank and Canal Barge sponsored BGR’s Annual Luncheon, which is a local fall tradition in its twenty-third year. The presentation, A Conversation with Michael Lewis, was part of the Janet Howard Speaker Series in Governmental Research.