Education
3:32 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

With New Charter Schools Coming, Civic Group Outlines Demands

The state Recovery School District currently runs seven schools in north Baton Rouge. The RSD is planning to put new charter schools on those campuses next year.

Last week, as reported in The Advocate, the RSD hosted presentations by charter providers vying for a slot.

Ahead of those presentations, the civic group Better Baton Rouge handed the RSD a community compact, outlining what some residents want from schools in their neighborhood.

The compact is the result of a series of conversations Better Baton Rouge organized over the last several months.

The demands are basic: be laser-focused on student success, recruit and reward talented teachers and principals, involve parents from all backgrounds, and address every student's physical, emotional, and social well-being.

"This is about the community's voice and the community's effort in helping to shape excellent schools in north Baton Rouge," said Raymond Jetson, a former state lawmaker and pastor of Star Hill Baptist Church, heads Better Baton Rouge.

Jetson gives the RSD credit for its own attempts to get input from the community before it picks which charter providers will move into north Baton Rouge. The RSD has held several focus groups and community meetings, according to The Advocate. But Jetson says there is lingering mistrust of the state-run district here.

"The experiences historically with the Recovery School District and with past school reform efforts have left a bitter taste in the mouths of many people in this community," he said.

Jetson points to a lack of leadership and resources as the source of the resentment. "People ... saw institutions in their neighborhoods -- in some instances institutions that they attended -- go through this serious decline."

The placement of new charter schools in Baton Rouge could be an opportunity for the RSD to fix its reputation. But, Jetson said, the charter providers will have to connect with the community.

The RSD is expected to announce which charter providers will open schools where by the end of October.

"I think that decision will be worthy of scrutiny," Jetson said. "If the ones who are chosen have a track record of being able to of being able to be successful at generating positive experiences and outcomes for children who look like the children in north Baton Rouge, then there's hope."