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Community leaders ask educators to partner on improvement in north Baton Rouge schools

Community leaders ask educators to partner on improvement in north Baton Rouge schools

POSTED: Friday, April 19, 2013 - 5:00am

UPDATED: Friday, April 19, 2013 - 5:04am

Better Baton Rouge wants to take back education in north Baton Rouge by making the people in charge of local schools more accountable.

"The community has to own the education of our children," said Dr. Raymond Jetson, the group's leader. "That we can't just turn that over to someone else or blame someone else."

Members of Better Baton Rouge spent Thursday night looking at different factors that make for good schools. Leaders said they studied successful schools to determine some of factors that set them apart.

They started with ten ideas: student achievement; recruiting, rewarding, and empowering educators; focus on graduation; community engagement; parental involvement; data-driven decisions; student support systems; educational options; a sense of community; and collective discipline.

The community members broke into small groups to debate the ideas and choose three they deemed most important for schools in north Baton Rouge.

Parental involvement was high on most people's lists.

"We know that every parent can't be a parent that can come to the school and bring cookies," Perry Daniel said. "But they can make sure their child gets plenty of sleep and can get up and get to school on time."

Teacher development was another important issue.

"Most teachers come to work every day wanting to be great teachers," said Verdie Batiste, a former teacher who currently works for City Year, a non-profit volunteer group. "We just have to figure out how to coach them up to be great.

"And have a climate in the school where teachers feel supported. And I think, a lot of times, teachers don't feel supported, and that's where you see the breakdown."

Jetson stated that these ideas are best discussed in a community setting, rather than at the beaurocratic level.

"None of this can be mandated," he noted. "But it's happening around the country."

The end result of Thursday's meeting, and another one held a couple weeks prior, will be a compact. It will list the factors community members believe to be most important to north Baton Rouge schools, and ask public officials to partner with them to create change in those areas.

Better Baton Rouge chooses not to concern itself with one important issue: who runs the schools. Jetson wants to work with the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, Recovery School District, and anyone else who can help north Baton Rouge schools improve.

"We believe that every child in north Baton Rouge deserves to go to an excellent school," he said, "regardless to who governs it, regardless to what model of teaching and learning they choose to practice.

"How do we define that excellence and how do we begin to work in partnership with those who would provide teaching and learning for our children?"

Staying out of what he called the "turf war" between EBRPSS and RSD is a crucial part of Better Baton Rouge's plan.

"What it allows us to do," Jetson stated, "is to focus on the most important part of all of this, which is the children."

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