Letter: New school plan not ready

Consideration of a proposed Strategic Plan for the East Baton Rouge Parish School System is on the agenda of the system’s board meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15. I applaud the efforts of the many people who participated in the creation of the draft, and note many excellent recommendations within the 21 pages. However, I strongly urge the board to decline adoption of the plan for the following reasons:

It is too long to receive thoughtful consideration in a single meeting or to be very useful in guiding ongoing policy discussions were it to be adopted. The current strategic plan has a clearer bold goal, and the whole plan neatly fits on a single page.

The current proposal was drafted in 2011 and is nearly unchanged since then. It does not reflect the current state of challenges and opportunities facing the system. There is neither acknowledgement of, nor a response to, the efforts from various parties to divide the system into several smaller and weaker systems. Neither is there an effective representation of the system’s many strengths.

A document presented by any school system, but especially a large system located in a governmental and educational hub such as Baton Rouge, should be so carefully written, edited and proofread as to remove any ambiguity of meaning or distraction caused by poor construction. This document fails those standards.

Finally, a strategic plan can only be as strong as its weakest component. There are many excellent suggestions in the plan, such as universal prekindergarten education and a return to neighborhood schools. However, other suggestions are horrible ideas.

One particularly egregious example is the suggestion that a teacher be fired if they ever fall within the bottom quarter of the state’s evaluation system. The folly of that idea is worth a letter all by itself, and there are many other bad ideas that made it into the proposed document.

For the reasons listed above, I encourage the board to reject this plan. I further recommend that renewal of the current 2008-20013 strategic plan, for at least one more year, be placed on the board’s agenda in September, with initial discussion by the committee of the whole followed by consideration of the board two weeks later. I encourage readers who agree to contact their board representatives and to attend Thursday’s meeting to voice their concerns.

James Finney


Baton Rouge