Superintendent Bernard Taylor Jr. asked volunteers working in public schools and those interested in volunteering to help in another way as well — to tell the story of what they see in the schools.
“Tell the stories of the schools you’re working in,” Taylor said during a breakfast Thursday morning organized by Volunteers in Public Schools.
Taylor, who started as superintendent of East Baton Rogue Parish school system June 18, said the way the school district is characterized in the public is not accurate.
“It’s easy to kick the big dog,” Taylor said, referring to the school system. “This is a district making academic progress.”
Accountability in the state is very high for schools and it’s judged on a pass/fail basis, Taylor said.
What it doesn’t do, he said, is show the progress that’s being made.
He used the example of a doctor telling a patient to lose 50 pounds and the person loses 49 pounds.
The person would feel like a success, but under the state’s accountability standards, the person would be a failure, Taylor said.
“Every time you hear failure, you think everything is a total failure,” Taylor said.
However, going into the schools you see that students are learning, good teachers are working with students and progress is being made, he said.
“I need you all to be ambassadors to tell this story,” Taylor told the small group of school volunteers, business and higher education representatives.
Taylor thanked the volunteers and those looking to volunteer in the public school system and said collaborative efforts are necessary to prepare students for a different world today.
Kindergarten used to be thought of as a place of learning social skills and play time, but there are now academics students must master.
If students come into kindergarten unprepared, they could lag behind academically, he said.
Although it’s easier for some people to volunteer in elementary schools because the students are so appreciative and young, it’s middle school where the school system needs volunteers.
“That’s where the payoff really has a life-enhancing effect,” Taylor said about middle school and ninth-grade mentoring.
Taylor said he’d been talking with colleagues recently and he had to ask himself how many students he was personally mentoring.
The idea of school administrators getting involved in mentoring students is something the school system is going to start looking into, he said.
“We can’t ask you to do this if we don’t do it ourselves,” Taylor said.
It’s true that the school system is facing challenging times, Taylor said, but there will always be an East Baton Rouge Parish school system because every child is entitled to a free and effective education.
“What we have to ask is what that is going to look like here,” Taylor said.