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OneRouge Community Check-In - Week 106

The topic of the conversation will be ‘Baton Rouge Schools Post-COVID Report Card” featuring Superintendent Sito Narcisse (EBRPSS) and a panel of Education thought leaders co-curated by Adonica Pelichet Duggan (BR Alliance for Student). The objective of the call is to celebrate the wins and best opportunities for growth next school year.

Enlight, Unite, & Ignite!

Post-COVID East Baton Rouge Parish

Schools Report Card



Adonica Pelichet Duggan - The school board lasted until midnight last night. As we started to talk about having an education report card on this Friday, it’s important to what we’re talking about. Focusing on the K-12 space. In total, 72,000+ kids in the parish of EBR. 11,000 that are independent from the EBR School system. Have one of the largest private schools sector in the country. In the southern part of the parish that’s upwards of 40%. We do have some state schools that serve about 10,000. 9,000 are public charter schools.

For this call we’re focusing on EBR Public Schools. EBR is the largest employer. If we think about how we’re improving quality of life, how critical is it that we have a school system? About 75% of the people born in Baton Rouge stay in Baton Rouge.

One of the goals of the call is for Dr. Narcisse to celebrate the wins and talk about an area of focus.

Superintendent Sito Narcisse

What I’m excited about last night’s meeting is that we’re talking about students first. There’s been a lot of noise around the support model. Our staffing model has been a challenge. There have been a lot of challenges and they didn’t come that way over night. It’s been years that have caused what is going on today. I’ve been here a year and five months now, and I’m trying to right a lot of stuff people have not addressed for whatever reasons. As we continue to move that pathway it’s going to create noise and change. While you’re changing the system, it’s going to be tough for various groups.

Successes - We have a strategic plan that has metrics to measure. When I came on board, I looked a the previous metrics and there were none. You couldn’t measure anything. We want people to feel good, but we need to know if kids can read. On our website you can see a scorecard, which the public can see. We need to train the public not only how to see data but read it. We are 15 years behind. It feels like I”m in this place where we are still in this space where other cities have moved beyond. We have all the resources, it’s a coordination problem and the politics drive that coordination. We’re pushing for transparency. It’s important that people see that. This district has not historically done the right thing for all kids. If you talk to different people in the community they will respond in different ways. People are talking about education, which is a good thing. How does a district this large have one person trying to do everything. I think we’re moving in the right direction. We have put a lot of dollars towards kids. There’s a lot of misinformation. We have more summer programs than we’ve had before. We’re doing a better job at bringing partners together. We’re working with the Mayor’s office. We’re working with partners we’ve never had before. We’ve been able to get the board to make some decisions that are usually kicked down the road. The other part we’ve been able to do is do a better job at partnering with the department of education. We still have a long way to go. I’m not a miracle worker. It takes time to build the groundwork. We’re doing a better job at community engagement. We still have a lot to do there. It’s a system.

Challenges - we have to get people to stop talking about adults first. IT’s about students first and everyone else second. When we look at the staffing model that’s making noise right now. What I found most disturbing in the process is that they said teachers are first. Students are first. We have this belief that it’s only about adults. It’s about the kids. We have to show the work for the children benefits in a lot of ways and we have to get the community to work together across schools. We have to talk about where our district is going. Our six keys have not changed. What was clear when I arrived is that the politics here are so heavy, they tend to come in with their biaia, so I wanted an external partner to come in so we can level set. Movement is also a challenge. We talk a lot here. We don’t move fast enough. We have to be able to say we’re getting indicators to move. That has to be based on key performance indicators. We have to be okay to move the ball fast. And be okay that that’s going to make noise. There’s a history we have that folks are very complacent in different places. My goal is to put systems in place. We put a lot of things in place to get the schools to measure consistency across schools. Different schools were taking different tests when I first arrived. The measurement of one test across the state does not assess properly. You have to constantly measure and do professional development with the teachers. I always remember the same marker when I came in. 19 were doing well, and 53 were not. All schools have children depending on the subject that struggles. I’m excited that we are on course. At the end of the day my goal is to keep the ship doing in the same direction. The expansion of early learning. Early childhood approach, if we can get more of those kids across the parish, you’ll see more kids ready for kindergarten. We have to make sure kids are ready at 3rd grade. Middle to high school transition. Making sure kids are exposed earlier. We have to move towards workforce development. We have to get kids connected to jobs. Pathways work allows children to advanced courses and pathways to more workforce development.

We are looking at whether we should close down some of the smaller schools, which is a hard lift.


What do you see as the role of yourself and the board to bring the community along.

We’ve made some big missteps. We have a new head of communication. Latrice has taken over for Alex Stubbs. We’ve done a very poor job on foreshadowing what’s happening. I don’t think we’ve done our best at getting into multiple spaces. One of the things Latrice and I have been talking about is what spaces I can get into more to tell what we’re trying to get done. Also working with partners to share that message. I am one person, I have to get some sleep sometime. Doing it by myself isn’t possible. We have to talk through these steps. The challenges we’ve had, the understanding of the changes is a heavy lift. We have to do a better job in that space to close that gap.

What is your approach to prepare schools and train educators for the struggling schools and how we’re going to get them back.

The staffing plan is part of that decision. We love to say things that the school knows best, but when you look at the decision making, that’s not the case. We’re looking at more development time for teachers. We’re moving towards a multi tiered training system. Also the type of resources they are going to have and going toward a process in schools. Our school system, if you look at the history, the amount of training teachers and paraprofessionals has not always been up to par. You have to continuously have training to help students get better at what they need to do. Every month in our new calendar is going to have more training. We’re pushing more with our coaches and our principal teams. Decisions have not always been made on data. It’s always been anecdotal. On the social emotional side, we’re tying behavior with academics. The responsibility of the children’s behavior is not all on the teachers. They come in with trauma. We have to have a better cohesive system. THe reason why I’m trying to entice the partners is that you fit into the ecosystem where those kids are having challenges. We do not think about schools in their neighborhood. If we can determine what’s going on in the neighborhood, we can be more systematic towards putting resources in those schools. That’s the next level of work we need to go into.

In terms of staffing, we’re trying to decrease our ratio levels between students and support staff. In our current model, they’ve been able to increase ratios between counselors. I’ve always had a 1-400 ratio, which is ridiculous. We’ve not done the best at investing in that.

The community doesn't understand how this district is allocating resources.

Through our budgetary space. There are six things we’re trying to get done. Everything is around those six keys, nothing else. You can see that in our current budget. You can see how we allocated everything in the budget, which is available. Resources are people, time and money. You can look at the budget and see how we’re allocating people’s time. We’ve had schools that were overstaffed for years. We’ve been trying to reallocate appropriately.

Given that EBR is in the state that it is in now largely due to structural racism and ableism.(Let's not forget that the parochial/private boom followed integration) What structural changes are being made to ensure that the property tax trap and other built in inequity is rebalanced?

The history of EBR in terms of desegregation, I don’t think that’s where we are today. We have a lot of challenges regarding North, Mid City, and South. There are lot of shifts we can make. Everytime I try to move things, we talk about race, but it’s also classist. I do think the demographics shift from the north and the south is a big challenge. Those are the two heavy lifts. We’ve had the urban league come in and we’re working on an equity framework, which we haven’t released yet. Our director of equity is trying to work with our partners on that, because the equity framework should guide us on how we talk about race relations.

One of the major challenges of this system has been such massive turnover in leadership? Has that been stabilized?

In terms of schools leaders, not as many this year. We’ve been trying to stabilize school leaders with internal issues. I don’t want to give a number to give a misnumber. At the central office, we’ve been reducing numbers so we can add those to the schools. At our level, there hasn’t been too many shifts.

Who pays the professors for the Advanced Placement?

I don’t know off the top of my head. We have a process for payments. We do work in our current MFP with the colleges and universities.

Typically AP courses are taught by the school personnel.

Are the schools that are closing the poor schools?

There have been no decisions on schools. The reality is that in most spaces it’s about where the demographic shift is.

What would that mean for the kids that then have to go to schools farther away? Especially for those who are moving farther away. If we’re just looking at numbers, how are we centering that with children?

It is complex. I’ve had to live through closing schools. The challenges we’re going to have to figure out is ways of increasing enrollment in the poor schools, or look at approaches of neighborhood schools, or we’re going to have to move kids from one place to another. The smaller the school, the more resources you have to put into it. There’s a cost balance that we have to deal with.

Adonica - What is the scale of school we are going to have to have to have those resources? How many children on a campus does it take to make that make sense? What is the school board's plan for these resources to be repurposed? We know what it looks like when a school is shuttered in a community when there isn’t a clear plan.

Tying behavior with academics? What does that mean?

When a child isn’t complying with a teacher, they send the child to the principal or expel them, they don’t look at what the challenge is. RTI - Response to intervention - it’s responding to how the child is acting, but they never tied that to the academic. If they’re not performing academically, there’s something tied to that. Academics and behavior go together. We’re trying to get children back into the classroom, not out of it.

Elizabeth Shephard - It speaks volumes that you are here. New Orleans and Baton Rouge have similar challenges. They’re very segregated school systems. There are schools with 50% or more living in poverty that function differently than those with a 10 to 50% poverty rate. As a community. In what ways do you see us as a community having these conversations to where we’re not concentrating poverty in schools and creating more challenges.

We don’t see shared resources as a thing in our system. This staffing model approach is part of that. We’ve had schools that are overstaffed. Once the principal decides that they are overstaffed, we are going to move them to different schools. We struggle around this sharing of resources construct because our system hasn’t always had that as a model to do. As a coalition of partners, to get people to what sharing a resource is. We have a scarcity mindset. In speaking we say we believe we have to have systems in place, but from an organizational place, we fight for resources. That’s a shift we have to collectively move as a community.

What would you give EBR Schools a grade for this year?

I get fearful of giving out grades. I would say, we have a lot of continuous improvement to do. We’ve had progress, it’s not finite. I’d like to think if you measure where we were before, we have a long way to go because we have a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of building of trust. If we don’t have this trust we’re not going to move. It has to be a community. It can’t be one person or one neighborhood. We can’t make everything an absolute. It has to be an “and.” I can’t really give you a grade, but we have a lot of work to do, but we’re making progress.

Adonica Pelichet Duggan -We have a program called Change Makers. We are going to share applications later this month. As we address the problems and the things we’ve learned from the past.


Walls Plus One Podcast - If you enjoy this call, make sure to listen to the Walls Plus One podcast. Adonica Pelichet Duggan will be featured on an upcoming episode. Subscribe today >>

Little Art Library - Please come partake in the supplies that are available or drop off items that you no longer need. The Little Art Library is located at 458 America Street.

On May 26, we have a virtual webinar on the possible change to Roe v Wade.

KidzFEST is scheduled for

2nd saturday in June

June 11th with BREC and young people with their own business.

Scotlandville BREC Park at Badley Rd and veterans in Scotlandville

East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition Caravan for Justice Saturday, May 21st @ 10:00 am. At Badley Road Under the overpass.

Zoom Chat

Community Announcements

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