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Principals say partnerships, not power, needed to improve schools

Principals say partnerships, not power, needed to improve schools
Photo provided by staff
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 9:47pm

Local principals say they need help improving their schools. But instead of more power, they want more partnerships.

Principals shared their thoughts on SB 636 and other issues during a forum Wednesday sponsored by One Community One School District.

SB 636 was a bill in the 2014 legislative session that was written by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. I would have taken many responsibilities away from the East Baton Rouge School Board and given it to principals. Forty principals signed a letter in opposition of the bill, which ultimately failed.

Norma Church, Westdale Heights Magnet School "The long laundry list of things that were on (it), that that bill gave us control of, we do not need," stated Norma Church, outgoing principal of Westdale Heights Academic Elementary Magnet School. "Planning what the kids have to eat, planning the bus routes, doing those kinds of things all take me out of the classroom."

Principals do not currently have to deal with those things, because they are arranged at the district level. The school system gets economies of scale by arranging services for all its schools, and saves the principals time.

"I was afraid of the impact of that, both financially and with the amount of workload that it would cause, for me to have at the school level," said Christa Leon, principal of Mayfair Lab School. "We're very much focused right now on facing the standards, the new Common Core, if that does hold true, that we're facing that. We need to be focused on that right now."

"I would've had to hire somebody to help me with it," Church added, "which would've stretched the budget even further."

Superintendent Bernard Taylor recently gave principals more control over their own budgets.

"It was really nice to be able to have our individual budgets at our schools, and make decisions based on our needs on our own campuses," Leon stated.

Many educators and parents criticized BRAC for not seeking enough community input on its proposal. If the business community wants to make an impact on education, Church said she would welcome the opportunity to work with them.

"Say a school needs a computer lab," she mentioned. "Well, what businesses in that area can contribute to that? Do you have somebody who can pull wiring, do you have somebody that can take care of this? And it's not all just, what can you give to us, what can we do for y'all, too?" She said her students would love the opportunity to shadow professionals, and would be willing to give artwork to local companies, or to sing at their Christmas parties.   

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