reports from a local parent monitoring public education in New Orleans

Open Letter to Dr. Jarvis, November 2006

Amy Lafont
PO Box 51153
New Orleans, LA 70151
****

VIA CERTIFIED MAIL

Dr. Robin Jarvis
Superintendent, Recovery School District
1641 Poland Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70117

November 27, 2006

Dear Dr. Jarvis,

At the charter conference on Saturday, November 18, in Baton Rouge, it was stated that you are meeting weekly with Steve Bingler of Concordia Architects who is coordinating the UNOP plan. It was also stated that you had not yet hired long term planning staff and the decisions being made for our schools are all considered temporary decisions, locations and facilities. As a resident, planning participant, and parent in New Orleans, I am concerned about disparities in neighborhood plans and RSD plans for our communities’ schools both short and long term.

I ask that your meetings with Concordia follow public meetings laws. I am very concerned about the lack of transparency in the process you are engaged in. Please publicize the dates, times and locations of your upcoming meetings with planners as they are scheduled from now forward.

Further, I ask that you welcome community members to sit at the table with you and participate in making decisions as the people most affected by your actions. Many communities in New Orleans have education resources and are ready to serve our children. Everyone who cares about children suffered under our old system, and many hopeful and dedicated residents are stepping forward to contribute in our community schools. People are naturally going to be attached to particular schools, and you may not understand the rhyme or reason of that, and you do not have to. We ask you to respect our relationships to our schools and not pursue policies that estrange communities from their local schools.

Before a charter entity is placed in any community, the community should be able to review the charter application and meet with the applicants’ board members and management company. The charter’s plan and RSD’s plans should match the goals of the neighborhood’s plans for their schools.

As you conduct facilities planning with FEMA and Alverez & Marcel to determine which buildings will be renovated, razed, and replaced, please involve community members in this process also. We understand it is complicated and cumbersome, and we still want to participate. We want to be continuously updated, in detail, about your negotiations. We will attend your meetings. We ask you to attend ours. We are engaged like never before in designing our futures and taking responsibility for ourselves, and school design is central to neighborhood planning. Every wet community in New Orleans is very anxious about the conditions of our schools right now. Please allow us to meaningfully participate in the recovery and transition to a functional public school system.

Sincerely,

Amy Lafont

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