School board member: Baker schools will 'die' if board divisions not solved

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - 10:02pm

The Baker School Board approved a budget that could put teachers' jobs in jeopardy. But one board member believes the entire system is in danger.

The school system will run a shortfall of roughly a million dollars this year, because parents are looking for better places to send their children.

"And that could possibly mean laying off teachers," claimed school board member Troy Watson.

Baker's schools have earned low ratings from the state over the years, but Watson thinks parents do not fully understand the challenge now facing the system.

"They should be concerned," she said. "Because I'm sure Baker didn't break away from EBR to establish a school system to watch it die, or die slowly."

The shortfall is largely due to the presence of two charter schools that opened in Baker for this year.

"When the students don't return to our school system, the money follows them," Watson explained, referring to the Minimum Foundation Program maintained by the state. "So if they go to the charter school, the money goes there."

With low-rated schools, Baker could lose more and more children to charters, or to higher-rated schools in Zachary, Central, or Baton Rouge. Park Ridge Magnet has a B grade, but Watson said that is actually part of the problem.

"The teachers need to be given the resources; not just in one school, in all the schools," she stated. "We need to provide them with the resources that they need to teach the students."

Watson is often in the opposing minority on decisions made by the board. She said too few members of the community attend board meetings, and need to hold members accountable.

"I just wish, I would like the parents to come out and realize they have rights, they have power," she said. "Parents have power."

Watson added that transfers can be hard to prepare and account for. Sometimes, students will enroll in charter schools and not tell the district until the first day of class. That leaves the system with more teachers than it needs need.

All Baker School Board members are up for re-election in November.

"Research who you want to put in office," Watson advised. "It has to be the right person. If you want change, then change has to happen. If there's no change, then there's no change."

The most immediate change is that some teachers will likely be fired. In the long term, Watson described the school system as being a bucket with a leak that nobody is plugging.

"No parent in this city should have to send their student, their child somewhere else," she stated. "We have schools right here! With the right leadership on the board, we could make that turnaround happen. But until we do that..."  


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