Letters: School district welcomes input

A recent article by Charles Lussier of the Advocate (“Uninvited Guests Allowed Into Charter School Meeting”) painted an inaccurate picture of the Recovery School District’s community engagement thus far in Baton Rouge and had an underlying tone of angry protesters being barred from an invitation-only meeting that, in actuality, is one of many meetings we’ve had over several months focusing solely on improving our schools with concerned stakeholders.

Community has been a central focal point for the Recovery School District’s work in the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone. Baton Rouge has nearly 90 public schools in the parish; 64 percent of them are D and F schools. Of those schools, the Recovery School District currently has seven in North Baton Rouge that are set to be transformed by high-quality, proven charter organizations. Part of the RSD’s goal of engaging the community is to focus everyone’s efforts on how we are going to change the lives of students attending chronically underperforming schools.

The Recovery School District is working with Baton Rouge community members driven by the desire to create choice, autonomy, and accountability within the Achievement Zone. Over the past several months, the Recovery School District has provided several opportunities for parent, community and stakeholder input.

Last May, we met with parents and the community at each of our schools in the Achievement Zone to discuss our plans for chartering all schools by 2015. Over the summer, the RSD partnered with Southern University and Louisiana State University to conduct focus groups comprising educators, parents and community members to help create priorities to transform our schools in the Achievement Zone. In August, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education conducted the charter operator approval process and gave the community an opportunity to engage and comment on the process. In early September, the RSD invited the community to participate in discussions around the focus group findings and worked with them to set priorities for our schools. This week, we held introduction meetings with approved operators and the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone Advisory Board members and community stakeholders.

Over the next several months, the open and transparent engagement continues. Stand for Children is hosting a “Meet the Charters” community meeting on October 7, 2013, at Living Faith Christian Center, and the Recovery School District will hold and co-host additional meetings with parents and stakeholders after siting announcements are made.

As we seek to create high-quality schools in Baton Rouge, we ask that everyone focus their energy in a productive and positive manner to ensure all students are provided the equal opportunity to prepare for college and careers. We invite all of Baton Rouge to participate in the transformation of our schools.

Patrick Dobard

Superintendent, Louisiana Recovery School District

Baton Rouge