We Knew the School Wasn't Working for Our Kids So We Fixed It

Jan 3, 2018 12:00:00 AM


There is something oddly beautiful about realizing that something isn’t right with education in your community. I have never been one to shine light on a situation without engaging and offering a solution. For many of us in the New Orleans community, the post-Katrina education environment has catapulted many of us into larger roles within our community. The door to these roles was opened by parenthood and we walked through the door to fight for the best for our children as advocates. I have always been active in my children’s lives from extracurricular activities to education, but in early 2015 an incident that occurred at my daughter’s school has changed my thoughts and actions toward the educational outcomes for every child in New Orleans.

Something Changed

It was the all-too-familiar occurrence in our city—one school's doors closed completely or the keys were given to another Charter Management Operator (CMO). This situation had riddled the children of our city with displacement, uncertainty and inconsistencies. This surge of new schools in New Orleans has clearly hurt their development. We, as parents of Andrew H. Wilson Charter School, were thrust into a situation that would affect our children’s future, so we decided we would be an intricate part of this process that was about to change our children’s education. Little did we know it would have bigger implications on education in our city as a whole. There is a saying that “power concedes nothing without a demand.” We began the process of demanding to be involved in this school-transfer process. No parents had ever attempted to be part of the decision process surrounding a school takeover, but we were determined. We came together on our own after work and came up with a game plan.

The Wilson Parents Wanted In

I personally believe the success of our mission was enhanced because of how we did it. We were adamant and unrelenting yet professional and mannered in our request to be involved. We stayed informed about decisions surrounding the transfer process. The Wilson parents wanted in. Needless to say, we got in, but bragging rights weren’t warranted yet; the real work was about to begin. It changed the face and structure of decision-making in public education throughout our city for every child and family. [pullquote position="right"]We created the blueprint for a dynamic school, parent and community partnership.[/pullquote] Wilson parents were successful in choosing the operator we felt had the best overall fit to move the school forward. That operator was InspireNola charter schools. From the start, a partnership blossomed and the solutions started to flow from both sides of the aisle. The nonchalant culture of the school needed to change and it was changed with student and parent involvement in the process. The adults in the building who didn’t necessarily have our children’s best interest at heart were gone from the building, which made way for teachers who were invested in our children’s ability and future. The community partnerships were reevaluated and commitment from those stakeholders who helped the students and families of Wilson was reestablished. The school building was painted, floor shined, new landscaping and walls adorned with positive reinforcement because we all know image is everything and the better the appearance the better the success level. A solid foundation was formed between home and school. We pushed a commitment to rapidly and aggressively changing the education levels of our children. We implemented after-school tutoring, Saturday classes and summer school. [pullquote positiong="left"]When I tell you it paid off, I mean it paid off.[/pullquote] In the first year of the transfer, Andrew H. Wilson improved its letter grade from an F to a C. Our children also improved their Leap test scores by 29 points. In addition to those amazing gains, an organization (who many said wouldn’t want to touch turnaround work) brought their winning formula and began a journey down a road of providing high-quality education to more students. Also, the parents of Andrew H. Wilson established a precedent for parents showing up and positively showing out for their kids—we were an advocating dream team. The  Parent Advocators have since partnered with the RSD (Recovery School District), OPSB (Orleans Parish School Board) and have helped parents like those of McDonough 42 and many more establish their voice when speaking out for their children. Together we will face many problems, but together is where we will find the solutions.
An original version of this post appeared on The Second Line Education Blog as When Something Isn’t Right With Your Children’s School, How Do You Fix It?.

Lamont Douglas

Lamont Douglas is a father, advocate and blogger at Secondline. He resides in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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