Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Dr. Phillip Rozeman: Caddo School Plan is an Opportunity

by BIZ Magazine

The Caddo Parish School Board met on May 3, 2024, and approved the recommendations of the Louisiana Department of Education to address chronically low-performing schools in Caddo Parish.  At the meeting, I expected Louisiana State School Superintendent Cade Brumley to make the case for why we should make changes in those schools, and he did.  What I didn’t expect, but got, was a well-thought-out plan of action on how the CPSB and LDOE could work together to transform schools.  

The plan for Caddo included a combination of school closings; charter or “school within a school” offerings; and reassessment of school leadership in our poorest performing schools. The plan was developed as an alternative to school takeover by the Department of Education.  

The most talked about aspect of the plan is the closings of Sunset Acres and Werner Park schools – and moving these attendance zones to Westwood and Caddo Heights respectively. The choice of these schools receiving students was not random.  

I have been doing a podcast for KTBS 3 to highlight some of the bright spots in education in Northwest Louisiana.  In that role, I had the opportunity to interview the leadership for both Caddo Heights and Westwood and can say without hesitation the students moving to these schools will be moving to excellent schools.

The closure of Sunset Acres and Werner Park and other schools in the future is required to right size a school system that is spread too thin.  The cost of maintaining older school buildings is substantial.  When we spend less on building maintenance, we can apply more resources to more important student purposes.  Right sizing the school system is showing good stewardship.  

Fair Park Middle School will be operated by Third Future Schools – a turnaround charter operator with a good track record in turning around schools in Colorado and Texas.  Fair Park will continue to be part of the Caddo school system, but the school will be staffed and operated by Third Future Schools for a period of three years.

Broadmoor STEM and Caddo Middle Technology will add the Star Academy “school within a school” program for their students who have become disengaged and fallen behind. It is a project-based STEM model that also exposes students to employment possibilities. The cost of the program at the two schools will be borne with a $2 million investment by the Louisiana DOE. 

An attractive differential compensation plan will also be developed and implemented for Atkins Elementary, Bethune/Oak Park, Caddo Middle Career, and Broadmoor STEM. As part of the agreement, Caddo Schools will provide an open application process for leadership at these schools. The current administration in these schools will be able to reapply with other applicants. Final leadership decisions will be made by the Caddo school district.  

I have heard a lot of people refer to this plan for Caddo Parish Schools as a takeover.  In fact, it is the opposite.  It is a plan to strengthen underperforming schools so a takeover will be unnecessary.  More accurately, this Caddo plan is local and state education leadership working together to improve schools for the students and parents of our community.

No schools will be moved under state control and the schools closing at the conclusion of the school year are closing based on academic performance and the need to right size the school system.  This plan will bring more targeted investment in school improvement efforts in underperforming schools.  

Caddo schools will have to continue to extend the work that led to 49 of the 53 schools having improved school performance scores in the past school year.  This collaboration between the Caddo Parish school district and Louisiana DOE is about accelerating progress for those schools with the greatest needs.  As for our community, we should all be grateful our leaders have agreed to work together to fulfill the goal of providing opportunity for all our students.  

Dr. Phillip A. Rozeman is a physician active in school improvement and school choice efforts in Louisiana.  He has recently been honored with the annual lifetime achievement award of the Louisiana State Medical Society and the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL).

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