GOREE DISOWNS FAIR PARK / BOOKER T. WASHINGTON PLAN
Immediately upon learning of the surprise Caddo Parish School Board plan to merge Fair Park into Booker T. Washington, some Caddo residents – including me – doubted its legitimacy.
For the first time in memorable decades of history, the CPSB point person for all to do with the plan’s roll-out was a school board member, Larry Ramsey, and not district Superintendent Lamar Goree.
Now, based on a Goree e-mail just days ago, alarms are even louder. The man specifically hired to do such planning – our system’s Number One educator – says the plan is not his or his staff’s.
Local education activist Brenda O’Brock received that Goree e-mail. She had written him for answers to some very good questions about the plan, and he responded with his denial of authorship.
As per our usual in community service, Ms. O’Brock contacted me for a reaction. With her permission, here is the verbatim whole of Goree’s alarming “answer”:
“Thank you for your input. As you know, this is a CPSB agenda item, and I, as the superintendent, do not vote. District staff has not made any proposal or recommendation in regard to any school consolidations or closures. However, staff will follow any actions taken or directives made by the Caddo Parish School Board and continue to act in the best interest of all children.”
We must first and specially note that this response could be Goree’s way to skip answering Ms. O’Brock’s questions.
Since the May 2015 voter defeat of the Goree / CPSB plan for $108,000,000 in extraordinary spending, Goree typically refuses to answer such questions … which is to say, communicate with the public.
If, however, we accept Goree’s written statement as true, the CPSB and superintendent are opposing forces in this plan … for reasons the public does not know, and has little chance of finding out.
One cold, hard fact is already in evidence: There was an overarching feature of the CPSB’s plan roll-out: defeating public transparency and accountability.
It was a sneak attack.
There was one week between the time parents and others of us learned the plan existed and the 8-4 vote by the CPSB to approve it. Yes … one week.
That is more Aggie joke than educational policy formulation and honoring the people.
Regardless, this plan – any such plan – is Goree’s responsibility. Even CPSB’s own Web site includes this statement of his duties:
“The board appoints a superintendent to manage its budget, supervise the staff and students, and make recommendations on operation of the school system.”
Goree, in his e-mail to Ms. O’Brock, even skips “mak(ing) recommendations,” saying he and other staff will only “… follow any actions and directives made (sic) by the CPSB.”
How, all who care must ask, does such abdication fit with the CPSB decision last month to extend Goree’s contract to 2020 … an award two years earlier than his contract terms?
Goree somehow bagged the extension and took a powder on this plan within 29 days. (His contract was extended on Dec. 20, and the plan approved by the CPSB on Jan. 17.)
We pay Dr. Goree a $225,000 annual salary, plus unknown tens of thousands more in signing bonuses and an impressive list of other benefits.
Still, we must now face, he is somehow empowered to do only that which he chooses.
Now, after all of this official misfiring, many who truly care about Caddo public education will work against one another, split by easily understood allegiances to either BTW or Fair Park.
What we in Caddo Parish need, pay for, and deserve is a school board and superintendent who care enough to honorably work with all of us as necessary to prevent all such battles.
I began working with Caddo and other school board members and superintendents in my 20s, and became good friends with many.
With few exceptions, they honored us … as they honored themselves.
Elliott Stonecipher is a native and resident of Shreveport, La. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University and Louisiana State University, he is president and owner of Evets Management Services Inc. Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Stonecipher has committed to pro bono work on a range of local, state and national issues, including reform of governmental and political ethics, and reform of national policies governing the U. S. Census Bureau. His work has been published in The Wall Street Journal, and he has appeared on CNN and Fox News Channel.
In the January 1 edition of The Forum, we should have identified the photographer for the “Shreveportant” feature as Jazmin Jernigan with Aesthetic Innovations LLC.