Ugliness in New Orleans school board meetings deters superintendent candidates

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The Orleans Parish School Board has been at loggerheads for two years, unable to select a new superintendent. For ideas on how to break the impasse, The Lens invited educators and advocates — including all members of the school board — to weigh in. We are publishing their thoughts in the next week.

The basic question: What does the board need to do to break the logjam and convince a top-notch educator to take charge as superintendent?

Sarah Usdin

Sarah Usdin

For the school board to attract an effective superintendent, we must first become a more professional and respectful board — respectful of one another and of the public.

Whether among board members or from the public in attendance, all dialogue should be conducted with appropriate decorum and respect. If we tolerate name-calling and verbal slurs, productive discussion becomes impossible. We need to follow our own established procedures and policies to prevent our meetings from degenerating into ugliness and chaos.

As elected officials, we are expected to lead and set a good example. What kind of an example do we set for our children if we cannot conduct meetings guided by common decency? Moreover, what qualified candidate would want to work in such an adversarial and disrespectful environment?

Secondly, our Board must be able to articulate a shared vision and focus on which candidate has the background, qualifications, and ability to help realize this vision. Our vision should include the commitment to provide support for all public schools and educators who are getting the job done for our students — whether they are in an OPSB or RSD school. Our mission, as the school board elected by the citizens of New Orleans, is to effectively support the education of all the children in the community.

Sarah Usdin, founder and former director of the nonprofit New Schools for New Orleans, represents District 3 on the Orleans Parish School Board.

Correction: The tagline on this post originally misstated Usdin’s district. She represents District 3, not 6. (Oct. 14, 2014)

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