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Changes both drastic and subtle in EBRPSS regional attendance zone plan

Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 10:27pm

The East Baton Rouge Parish Public School System's plan for four regional attendance zones could have a large impact on local public education.

At Glen Oaks High School Thursday night, some people loved what they heard. Others had reason to be afraid.

The four school families are all based around a common high school. Parents, though, will get to choose from any of the middle and elementary schools that feed it. It also breaks traditional middle and elementary schools into smaller pieces.

"I support it," Superintendent Bernard Taylor told the crowd, "because it reflects what it is that parents and this community have said."

Some people at Thursday's meeting seemed uneasy about the changes, in part because of the long traditions of the schools that feed Glen Oaks High School.

"But all the passion and dedication, everything," Taylor responded, "doesn't mean a thing if students aren't achieving."

This new form of school choice introduces a bit of free market economics to public education, and with it, worries that families will flee the worst schools.

"Survival will make you do what you need to do to keep students with you," Taylor told the educators in attendance.

The proposal also means an opportunity for schools to come up with new, distinctive offerings that change their image and give students a new sense of inspiration.

"We're not determining what the programs are going to be," Taylor said of the school district. "That is going to be driven through a community process.

"We're asking people to take the initiative to devise what they believe would be in the best interests of preparing students for college and the world of work."

Another big change is that every staff member of the schools involved will have to re-apply for their jobs. Additionally, principals will have a say in who gets hired rather than the district randomly assigned teachers to schools.

"If the principal is going to be held accountable for the results of the school," Taylor stated, "then the principal should have a say in who works at the school."

Taylor said he wants teachers who want to take on the challenge of improving local education, as opposed to being unhappy about an assignment to a poor school.

"We have a significant proportion of our teachers and principals who are highly skilled and have a high degree of will. We have those who have the will, and we need to work on their skill level. We have those who have the skill, but we need to get them to reinvest in improving their level of will."

Thursday's was the second of four public forums about the plan. The next meeting will be Thursday, January 31st, at Scotlandville Magnet High School. The final meeting will take place at Southeast Middle School on Thursday, February 5th.

Taylor hopes to implement the changes in time for the 2013-14 school year, but needs the approval of the district's board to do so.

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