Letter: Let teachers do their jobs

In response to your 1/2/14 article lamenting the sad state of affairs in the Lafayette Parish school system, no one, including the superintendent, is blameless. Whether these issues can be successfully addressed in the current atmosphere is uncertain.

Having attended several board meetings where the disharmony was evident, there are legitimate differences of opinion among board members and with the superintendent on priorities, problems and plans for dealing with them.

It also seems true that board members have limited personal relationships with each other and that the superintendent has done little to encourage collegiality.

Like watching sausage made, the public is appalled at the confrontational, uncooperative, disrespectful statements and demeanor often adopted toward elected board members during these televised board meetings. Whatever their differences on important issues, arguing, name calling, personal attacks and random snide remarks do not promote compromise or instill confidence. No wonder the board declined to ask the voters for a big tax increase to fund school improvements.

Even the superintendent’s call for “mediation” was accompanied by a complaint about a board member to the state ethics committee. Hardly an indication that his mediation invitation was a serious attempt at patching things up with the board.

The losers in all of this are the students of Lafayette Parish. No one is placing their welfare first, and the best proof is the lack of enforcement of the board’s classroom discipline policies. Teachers are spending more than 60 percent of their day dealing with repeat discipline offenders at some schools, which means the students in those classes who want to learn are learning only 40 percent of what they are supposed be. Test scores at low-performing schools will remain dismal until someone stops the chaos in classrooms.

Teachers write up serious infractions, including bullying and sexual harassment, only to have them edited, redacted, reduced to less serious offenses or simply discarded. Why is this done? Because the people doing so and the people in the administration who are encouraging or condoning this cover-up do not want the public to find out how bad things are.

Everyone knows what’s happening on our campuses and what needs to be done. Ask any teacher who is teaching or has taught at a low-performing school.

People in charge simply lack the fortitude to do what’s necessary. They’re afraid to stand up for our students, teachers and parents. Simple as that.

You want a “turnaround plan” that works? Support, empower and back up classroom teachers. Let them do their jobs. Until everyone does, the cycle of failure will continue.

Richard Thornton