Wednesday, April 20, 2005

As Seattle sees us...

This article was referenced by New Orleans News, from the Seattle Times web page, and written by Adam Nossiter of the Associated Press:

Crises multiply at schools in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — Dozens of employees indicted or convicted on corruption charges. Tens of millions of dollars unaccounted for. Eight superintendents in seven years. Rock-bottom test scores. Shootings, sirens and police uniforms, often. The threat of bankruptcy and bounced checks, constantly.

In the dismal gallery of failing urban school systems, New Orleans' may be the biggest horror of them all.

"Urban districts, in general, will often have problems with instruction, with finances, with operations," said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of Great City Schools in Washington. "But they don't always occur at the same time. And New Orleans is really facing a three-front challenge."

New Orleans "is almost a national scandal," said James Harvey of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. "The consistent gossip about favoritism and corruption is extremely troubling." And the city has become "murderers row for superintendents."

Long ago abandoned by this city's middle class, New Orleans public schools are in sad shape academically. New Orleans accounts for 55 of Louisiana's 78 worst schools. More than two-thirds of the school system's fourth-graders do not have basic competence in math.

The latest crisis in the 64,000-student system broke two weeks ago. First, teachers nearly missed a paycheck, the system was so broke. Then, the state threatened a takeover. Finally, the superintendent — a reformer from New York who, like many before him, entered with grand plans — was forced out by a school board disenchanted with his reform ideas.

Superintendent Anthony Amato's fate was sealed last week at a board meeting crackling with racial hostility. Much of the hooting was directed at him and his white supporters in the school system, which is almost 94 percent black.

Financially, the school system is a "train wreck," Louisiana's top government watchdog, legislative auditor Steve Theriot, told lawmakers in Baton Rouge. No one knows for certain how much money it has, or how much money it owes.

More tomorrow...


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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