The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board plans to meet Thursday to debate yet again the best way to train Baton Rouge teachers to handle new educational standards known as Common Core.
Despite discussing the issue for months, the board is not scheduled to vote Thursday and is unlikely to make much progress when it meets that night.
Superintendent Bernard Taylor has been pressing, so far without success, for quick action that would allow extensive teacher training in Common Core to start in November, ahead of the Thanksgiving break.
Taylor has warned that waiting until Nov. 7 for a vote, as the board plans to do now, means postponing that training until the start of the second semester in January.
Common Core, which has been adopted by 45 states including Louisiana, went into full effect statewide in August.
The board deadlocked repeatedly when it debated the issue last Thursday.
Taylor presented the board that night with a complicated recommendation, developed earlier that week by an in-house committee.
That 11-member panel, dominated by principals and assistant principals, which met Oct. 15, recommended hiring not just one, but three professional development organizations and capping the first year cost at $1.2 million.
The three groups would collectively provide training, coaching, tests and lessons in English, math, science and social studies for the school system’s 3,000-plus teachers. The panel divided up the work based on what it judged as the strengths that each organization brought to the table.
The three groups recommended for hire are Center for Development & Learning, of Metairie; the Institute for Learning, based at the University of Pittsburgh; and the Leadership and Learning Center, a division of textbook giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Taylor did not disclose the committee’s recommendation until Thursday night.
He said he wanted to first make sure the three vendors would agree to such an unorthodox arrangement. He said he was surprised by the recommendation, but said the committee persuaded him it was the right way to go. Taylor urged the board to respect the work that these veteran educators had put in to supply the board with their professional judgment.
“If I were sitting in their shoes, and you asked me to do this again, I wouldn’t do it, because what you’re basically saying is they don’t know what they’re doing, and they do,” Taylor said.
The board, however, was unable to muster a majority of six votes for any course of action. Finally, after hours of debate, the School Board postponed a vote until Nov. 7, the date of an already planned meeting.
Before Nov. 7, the board called for one more debate, a workshop meeting, where no votes are taken and only board members can speak. That workshop is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Thursday at the School Board Office, 1050 S. Foster Drive.
Board member Randy Lamana, who made the motion that broke the logjam, explained that it would be a chance for board members to digest information they already had, including three late-arriving videos of the presentations by the three finalists, as well as a chance for Taylor to answer board members’ questions.
Taylor said he had given the board all the information he had. Getting better information, including exact pricing, could come only if the board gave him permission to start negotiating with the three vendors.
Board members complaining of the pace of the decision were unmoved.
“I just feel like everything was just thrown at us,” said Kenyetta Nelson-Smith.
Board member Jill Dyason demanded that the board get all relevant information 48 hours before a vote, something she plans to press the board to do in the future.
“I haven’t had time to assimilate all this,” she complained.