- Elliott Stonecipher
- Elliott Stonecipher
April 7, 2016
I have never been more concerned for the future of my home town and parish. Not since the 1954 Wallace Lake plane crash took the lives of so many of our leaders have we been at such risk.* The long, uninterrupted decline of our Caddo Parish school system has, we now understand, taken a decided turn for the worse, one our system leadership simply is not able – or willing – to forcefully fight on our behalf.
Here, as elsewhere, community and school system health are more or less synonymous. As our school system now teeters on the edge of collapse, expressions of community interest are rare, reported almost exclusively in and by social media.
With a half-billion public dollars gushing through it every year, the system is more than merely a target for corruption.
Now, system leaders – not our school-based personnel – operate a political patronage behemoth imbued with the belief that many – most? – of today’s children simply cannot be educated … only managed. Our money-burning gargantua called a “school system” is far less about our children, and far more about buildings and contracts and personal perks on our dime, and our children’s time.
Our school system is just as likely to serve parasitic adults as it is children longing to escape – as I did – noxious circumstances of their childhoods. The list of Caddo educators in my childhood who demonstrably cared about me is long, and my patience with school system bosses who dishonor their examples is gone.
In our better days, the vote this Saturday for school system taxes would never have been called. Then, community leaders would have checked their hats and guns of self-interest at the door, then sat down to clean-up this awfulness. Such is precisely what East Baton Rouge has done in recent years, and precisely what our school board religiously dodges.
Here are but a few of the things we now know.
— The State of Louisiana grading system declares that 63% of our schools – far more than in any other Louisiana system – are failed or failing … graded “D” or “F.” Of our “D” schools, 18 received an additional mark to show which direction they are headed, and only one – 1 – of them is said to be “improving,” with 5 marked “steady,” and the vast majority – 12 – judged to be “declining.” (Article here.)
To those with no need or desire to hide from fact and truth, this system has failed, notwithstanding its “C,” “B,” and “A” schools, only 1-of-3. If all illegitimate uses of public money suddenly disappeared, the system’s failure would be loudly declared and acted upon.
— In further and loud evidence of the fact, nearly 15,000 system students – 14,545 of 40,720 to be exact – are in schools graded “F,” or graded “D” and “declining.” In our responsible days, that fact alone would be the moral imperative triggering corrective action.
— The supposed “turn-around” plan for this educational and public policy collapse is itself spiraling-down under the weight of an emerging scandal more baleful than anything in our community history. We now know many school board members were warned of underlying causes when this administration took over.
— The whistleblower now picking the system apart, revelation after shocking revelation, may yet divulge what can only be called salacious details involving many school system and other city and parish officials, current and former. Other of his charges detail cover-ups of employee theft of public funds, fraud in the mammoth Title I program, payroll fraud, personal sales of school property, and public cash flowing to officials and others completely outside the system.
— This school board and administration are now maliciously ignoring our Louisiana Public Records Law, refusing to produce documents citizens lawfully request … a critically important device in all cover-ups. They do so regardless that like actions by an official in Lafayette Parish provoked severe judicial sanctions, along with the recommendation of an investigation for perjury and malfeasance. (Article here.)
System bosses deliberately intend to force public record seekers into long and expensive court fights for public documents they lawfully request. Some system mouthpieces even publicly suggest that the subject malfeasors control the civil division of our state district court where such battles are waged.
— Intimidation of school system employees by their bosses is far, far outside all legal boundaries. In order that teachers and other employees vote as the administration and the attached labor union dictate, employees are directly threatened with the loss of their jobs. The money at issue in this vote continues at least to next year, and system bosses intend to re-vote any millage defeats this November anyway.
The least honorable of our school board members write all of this off with a dismissive, “Elliott has no clue.” Those words are far more significant than they may seem because they are code for, “If Elliott knew the truth, he would know we are doing all we can … most of these children cannot be educated.”
If that be true, some one among them needs to say so publicly. They should tell us this – clearly and loudly. When they have, our community may then transition to an education system which must follow.
Such will never happen, of course. After all, that would confirm that ours is really a political patronage machine … not a system to educate our kids.
* For any who do not know our referenced 1954 history, Will and Jim Broyles have presented it to us again in “A Tale of Two Crashes,”one of four chapters in their first documentary. It is available on the opening page of their website, RealShreveport.com.