A new grassroots public education initiative is trying to get off the ground next week. Tuesday, January 20th, at 8:15, Beyond Bricks EBR is kicking off a community-wide initiative to start gathering feedback from the public about what they want their public education to look like. This event is being held at the Albemarle Headquarters at 451 Florida Blvd on the 16th floor.
The Advocate covered this launch in this article. This initiative was launched by Anna Fogle to gather feedback from the community and to foster a spirit of engagement with our public school system.
Fogle, a mother of two children in public school and board chair of the Baton Rouge Association for Gifted and Talented Students, said the catalyst for Beyond Bricks was the legislative session last spring.
Her organization along with the Children’s Coalition of Greater Baton Rouge and the parent group One Community One School District were raising concerns about an ultimately unsuccessful proposal, developed by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, to shift power from the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board and superintendent to school principals
I’ve known Anna for years, she is a staunch defender of public schools and children, and I’ve worked occasionally with the One Community One School District organization. What Anna, OCOSD, and others are trying to do is engage community members who actually use the Public School system and would like to have their input heard as well as those who have only heard bad things about the school system from the media which is generally hostile towards the public school system in Baton Rouge. For years, business and industry led by the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce and Lane Grigsby have dictated the direction our school system is going. They have dictated the direction based on what they think is best for them and their businesses, not what is best for public school children and parents. These business interests have sponsored harmful legislation to break up the district and even created their own faux grassroots organization called FuturePAC to funnel campaign donations through to support candidates they believe will ignore the public and follow their agenda without question.
The candidates funded by these groups have overwhelmingly been in favor of eliminating the public school system and replacing it with a privately run charter based system that will have no accountability to the public in regards to how these disparate private entities spend our tax dollars or how they treat our children. The schools being created by these private operators belong to them, not to the community. They can close overnight, and they have. If a private charter school employs abusive teachers or principals, or disregards the rights of disabled students the public has no recourse. At most a school could lose their “charter”. . .eventually. In that event the charter operator keeps the school and the community is left with the kids to try and convince other for profit charter schools to enroll for free. Many of these charter schools, like Inspire National Heritage Academy in Baton Rouge are refusing to provide transportation to students and families to save costs. Any “cost” they save is profit for them and a new cost for you to incur.
Maybe you like the charter schools the Chamber and Grigsby have recruited to Baton Rouge? This meeting is open to all philosophies so you could express that and explain to other concerned parents why you believe charters are a good thing. If you have some reservations or questions about the direction EBR is going I would recommend you come to this meeting. This will not be the only event held by Beyond Bricks EBR, but it is the first one.
My brief charter ranting notwithstanding, I believe Beyond Bricks is trying to encourage a positive atmosphere, so I would try to come with ideas about how to improve out current system and what sorts of programs and improvements you’d like to see. I personally would like to see Pre-K programs offered to families of all income levels. I feel from personal experience that I was further behind my wealthier peers by not attending Pre-K in my youth. I’ve seen my own kids excel at school with access to Pre-k. My daughter is reading almost four grade levels higher than the second grade class she is in, and we’re not exactly sure what her math level is since she answered every question correct on her recent math assessment. I am not bragging for myself. I am a terrible teacher with no patience or attention span. I owe all her progress to her teachers in her public school in EBR.
I would also like to see an expansion of the Montessori program that is only available on a limited basis at two schools, Belfair and Dufrocq. Those programs cost money, but they work. Charter schools cost even more money, and more often than not they don’t work. EBR is more than capable of providing “choice” to families in Baton Rouge, if given the chance and funding.
The EBR school district is doing some great things, but most people rarely hear of those, especially those without children in the public school system.
At a retreat in October of 2013 a PR consultant working for the EBR school district explained it best:
Also during the retreat, public relations consultant Melissa Landry led a brief discussion on how the board can improve its public image. She said that surveys show the community, overall, believes the district is headed in the right direction. But some of the people who have the worst perception of the district are those who don’t have children enrolled there or don’t have children. That could be because they hear only negative news from the media, Landry said.
So bring your ideas and your enthusiasm about the EBR public school system and come to Beyond Bricks EBR this Tuesday or one of the other meetings that will be announced later.
Details are below.
Please RSVP Here
Metered parking is available and nearby parking lots are mapped here.
This is an inclusive initiative for all philosophies.
Please email the name of any education advocate you believe should be involved to