Letter: Quality solves overcrowding

A recent letter to the editor asked the Recovery School District (RSD) to return control of the Prescott Middle School building to the East Baton Rouge Parish School System to help ease the overcrowding of some EBR schools. This overcrowding is due to the lack of a comprehensive plan for the lowest-performing schools in the parish.

The more parents aren’t satisfied with what they’re getting in one place, the more they will gravitate elsewhere. Of the 86 public schools in the parish, 64 percent of them are “D” and “F” schools. If the system cannot provide good schools in a parent’s home neighborhood, many are going to take their business elsewhere. That causes overcrowding in the most-sought-after schools.

EBR’s proposed “families of schools” plan divides the parish into four regional zones and allows students to attend a school within their regional zone, returning North Baton Rouge students to their home neighborhood. The author of the letter demands that the RSD return Prescott to EBR control so as to create room for students returned to North Baton Rouge. But enrollment issues — overcrowding in particular — are symptoms of a problem, not the cause of the problem. Just opening up a school building may help ease the symptom, but it won’t address the core problem.

The cause of the problem is school quality. If that problem were solved, parents would want to keep their kids close to home and the overcrowding issue would cease. We need a school quality plan, not just an enrollment plan.

Let’s be honest. To date, neither the state nor EBR has been successful in providing the predominantly black families of North Baton Rouge with a great school for every child. Recognizing this urgent need, the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone was created to build a foundation for the transformation of public education in the parish.

Within the Zone, the RSD is transitioning seven schools, including Prescott, to the management of a carefully vetted leadership team that will run the school independent from the RSD or the EBR bureaucracy. To bolster this effort, Zone schools will apply for support from the state’s Believe and Succeed fund, to transform failing schools. And local philanthropists have started the nonprofit New Schools for Baton Rouge to find the best leaders capable of transforming our schools.

The quality of families’ choices should not vary by ZIP code. A plan to enroll kids close to home must also be a plan to greater opportunities for those children. The long-term solution for all Baton Rouge families and all problems faced by this school system starts with a plan for quality in the classroom.

Patrick Dobard,

superintendent, Recovery School District

Baton Rouge