top of page

OneRouge Community Check -In - Week 166

End of July means the end of summer camps, summer jobs, summer internships ... well, it's just the end of summer. This is also about the time we start to anticipate the start of school. But between LEAP, TOPS, and all levels of graduation requirements, every year is high stakes! Louisiana reportedly has 47,938 teachers. September 2022 estimates were that Louisiana is short 2,520 teachers. But an April report from ABC News says Louisiana doesn’t believe it has a shortage issue. Why is there a conflict in perspective? And if the shortages are real, what does that mean for this coming school year? Join us this Friday as we hear from people who work with both educators and students to hear what we need to know. Our featured speakers are:

  • Dr. VerJanis Peoples - Dean, School of Education at Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College

  • Kyle Finke - Executive Director at Louisiana Resource Center for Educators

Enlight, Unite, & Ignite!



Casey Phillips: Hello, everyone as Pepper said welcome on this fine Friday together. You know we we'll just take a little quick pause you know it's been a very busy summer. It's been it's an interesting time right now.

You know, I see a few folks on the call that I know that you know for over a decade have been. Fighting on climate, right? On climate issues. And it's hard not to, it's hard not to feel the kind of subtle global panic right now of how this month recorded. We're also coming off a legislative session.

I'll quote the great Dr. Bester, "political malpractice". As said from the last session that clearly also, there's a lot of folks on here that fight for justice and power for kids. And it was a particularly tough legislative session. And then there, there has just been a lot of national, there's a lot of stuff happening on the world stage and the national discourse.

That really puts a lot of fear in people right now and in quite frankly, some of its intentional fear-mongering and that's all true, right? And but, differently, it's always different. Everyone's experience is different. Every generation is different. But if you watch movies, right? Or read books, read books from the 19th century in the 20th century and you watch films from the fifties, the seventies, and eighties.

You catch little subtle hits that people have always felt like the world was going to hell in the handbasket, right? And that everything is disheveled and there's, there, that there can be hopeless and all that. And the reality is that what I would like to encourage you all, if you're using the weekend to recharge, I want you to remember the power that you have in this world and how important holding the candle of hope and using language that inspires and doesn't continue to perpetuate that fear. How important it is right now. We're going into the month of August and there's a lot of uncertainty in the month of August. It's coming up in south Louisiana and every opportunity that you get in the month of August moving forward where you can be that candle of hope and that torch of courage.

I believe that everyone is going to need you all because you are leaders and you are not only in your organizations, but in the community, and I just want to encourage everyone to recharge and gas up this weekend, my friends, because as we roll into August, we're all going to be needed on the field of community.

And with that being said, one of the most important things that everyone agrees on both sides of the aisles and up and down, no matter what state you live in, is that the education of our young as well as the continued education of adults who are lifelong learners is one of the most important part of the threads in the fabric of society.

And this is a key component that we're talking about today. So I would like to turn it over to Pepper and our distinguished speakers. And I thank you all for being here today.

Pepper Roussel: Good morning. One Rouge. Thank you, Casey. Yes, I put it in the chat because Casey was talking. I want to know our Casey and Flitcher Bell both wearing black T-shirts because Yes, I've been waiting for them to get back on the same wavelength.

The topic of, is this a southern alliance going on over here? You know what? I'm always left out of the memo. However speaking of memos, I don't know if we all got the memo about teachers, teacher shortages, and what's going on this year. As Casey mentioned, educating our youth and even for the rest of us who seem to have some sort of an addiction to learning things.

It's important that you have some sort of a leader, an educator, a guide, a mentor, a teacher. Do we have enough for them? I'm not entirely sure because all of the information keeps coming out is conflicting. And so we're having that conversation this morning so that we can find out where we are, what we need to do, and how we can move forward.

We will start, alphabetical last name Kyle Finke. If you wouldn't mind letting us know who you are, what you do, and your thoughts. Your five minutes starts now.

Kyle Finke: All right, thanks. So I'm Kyle Finke. I'm the executive director of LRCE based here in Baton Rouge, but we work all over the state of Louisiana training teachers to become certified or if they're already certified, they can come back through LRCE to get their special education endorsements.

So that, that's in a nutshell of what the organization that I run does. And Pepper reached out earlier last week to speak to this a little bit about the potential teacher shortage and some just kind of conflict I think, Pepper, you linked in the meeting invite article from ABC News.

So I'll just start there. So that, that, that actually was a poll that they did of state agencies. I'm not certain who they talked to at our Department of Education or if it was the BESE board or who, so there's not a lot of information there as to. How they got that Louisiana is grayed out on that chart.

But I can tell you in our work with parishes, districts across the state universally they all would tell you it's harder than ever. And Casey, there's a bit there of your every year is the hardest year type of news that comes through. But they would say it's harder than ever to find quality, certified teachers for their classrooms across a whole range of areas.

In the past, it was hard to find science and special education teachers. And just last year, I was talking with Hollis, our good friend in West Feliciana, and he had an opening for high school social studies. Now, if you can't hire a coach, which is what I call, jokingly, social studies teachers, you know there's a teacher shortage, especially in a high-performing district like West Feliciana, where, when I was a classroom teacher, teachers would aspire to maybe go there or move there or figure out if they could buy a house in St Francisville and work for his team. It's definitely present and it's definitely stark. I spent yesterday in Calcasieu Parish working with their special education department. And of 450 special educators that work currently in the parish, 125 do not have a special education certification.

It could be that this data represents that we do have well-meaning and competent. adults in front of students across the board. But they may not be fully trained or certified to actually serve their populations. And that probably brings me to another point. If you are a family or a child who's in a D or an F school in public schools in Louisiana, you are almost 2.5 times more likely to have an uncertified teacher as a student. So if we talk about compounding effects over time, that will be detrimental to not just Louisiana, but where we live. We're actually putting our least prepared and youngest uncertified teachers in front of our most vulnerable populations across the state of Louisiana without a real clear understanding or strategy to long-term fix that. Now, there are some things that we could get done. It's very encouraging to see the legislator talk and enact some things around increased teacher pay locally. I think it's a sticky issue that the school board tackled and a lot of our surrounding parishes have tackled as well.

Let's raise that. But that's really one note in a symphony of things that our teachers need. and that our schools need to ensure that this like teacher shortage long term isn't something that persists and perpetuates. And that's, that's the start of it. How'd I do Pepper?

You said five minutes.

Pepper Roussel: You did really well. You actually ended early, but that's all right. Cause I dropped my question in the chat. So I'd come back to it after we hear the introduction from Dr. Peoples from the Southern University. Dr. Peoples, your five minutes starts now.

Dr. VerJanis Peoples: Good morning, everyone. I always start with the fact that one thing we all have in common is that we've all had a teacher. And so with that said, that lets you know how critically important it is to maintain that we have good teachers in the classroom. According to our research, yes, there is a shortage of teachers across the state and across the nation.

Our districts are suffering for certified teachers. And let me add that certified teachers in order for a teacher to become certified in state of Louisiana, you have to have a degree in education 2.5 GPA and have passed those critical components of practice. And as I look back over the years, we've been struggling with the shortage of teachers since 2009.

35% of our teachers left the classroom and it hadn't just started. It's been going on for years. And so we have to look back at what has been happening in teacher education to drive teachers away from the classroom. One thing I think we overregulated ourselves, we were a program that in order to enter our program, students had to come out of high school with a 22 on the ACT. Average ACT Score at that time was 18, so you were not getting many qualified teachers to come into teacher education. However, they could go into any other program on most campuses with that 22 so people started to make decisions about what are they where they want to go? And then they start looking at the average pay and then they started You know, to make decisions.

I can't go into teacher education. I go into something else. So that started. I think the down track of teachers coming into teacher education. But let me quickly add as we have reviewed things over the years, the legislature made some changes last year. They changed the requirements for entering teacher education.

And so we're hopeful that our numbers will come up again. Now you can come into teacher education as all other students across the campus meeting the campus requirements. And so they do not have to have that 22 on the ACT. Nor do you have to take practice one. You can just come into our teacher education programs.

And so we are seeing an uptick of students coming in because of changes in legislation. We also are looking at. More funding for teacher education because so many students left our programs got downgraded at universities. And so we suffered from having scholarships the appropriate resources to recruit students in these programs.

And so now we are getting the attention of a lot of people. Not only is there just a shortage of teachers, there's a shortage of minority teachers in the classroom, but there's an increase of minority students entering our schools. So that sets up another critical factor, and it's important that we produce more minority teachers because students in classrooms should see someone that looks like them. When you're looking through a book and you see somebody looks like they look like you, you'll take a second look and say, Oh, so we want to match the population of people in teacher education with students and the people in the school so that they can see themselves in the teaching.

We are also looking for more funding for teacher education, so that we can recruit more teachers. And right now our focus is on recruiting and retaining teachers. And so you will see a lot of teacher education programs partnering with outside organizations so that we could, they could help us to bring attention to this shortage and bring attention to recruiting more students in the area. We're starting early in high school through pre-educator programs where we are starting very early getting students interested in teacher education so that we can fulfill that shortage of teachers that we have in our schools. So it's a lot happening out here in teacher education.

As we look at the mistakes of our past, we're trying to correct some things because at one-time teacher education programs on college campuses, we were about the third largest program on the campus. But now our numbers are so low that we've been regulated to a school of education, not a college of education.

But I think we are making strides to build our way back. And I say that because we're getting more support from the state, the community, because it is crucial. One thing that this has done, it has focused attention on the needs of teachers and I understand this is the oldest and the most needed profession.

And so now we have communities of people that are looking at us and want to help to recruit more teachers, providing scholarship funds providing resources. And so as we continue to talk to our communities, to talk to our educational leaders about what we need in education, we really do feel that we are getting some support now.

So we are really still focusing. It's still, we're not where we should be, but I think that we're on a track to get more teachers in our program. Did I use my time or can I continue?

Pepper Roussel: We have more time. This was just the intro. Sliding our way into the mind of me because I have some stupid questions and I am fine with them being stupid questions.

I and it's a two-parter. First and foremost, both of you mentioned certifications, right? It's being certified as a teacher and I don't mean to be dense. But the reason I asked the question about what does a certification get us, I'm asking is there a special training? Is there, are there continuing ed hours?

What new besides a degree do you get once you're certified?

Dr. VerJanis Peoples: Certification for the state of Louisiana means that you have your degree, you have a 2. 5 and you've passed the required practice components. And so what does that get you? It gets you that a person that has the knowledge of being an effective teacher.

The skills that they get in a teacher education program. They have completed all methodology programs and in the last two years, we started a new component. Actually, they complete a full year of residency, meaning they are in the schools for one full year before they actually go out to become certified.

Now, where does that get you? It gets you a person that have experience in the classroom, a person that have observed and have been evaluated and it assures you that you're getting a high-quality teacher. That's what that certification is saying that you have a highly qualified teachers that have had the experiences and the knowledge bases to be effective in the classroom.

Kyle Finke: I would add a little bit to that pepper if you don't mind. At its heart is does this person have the competencies that a highly effective teacher would have, and it's maybe even less about the piece of paper that comes with it, and the GPA and what have you. It's if we're doing teacher preparation and we do it in a rigorous manner, we can put somebody in front of students who will have a greater impact on the K -12 education of those kids in that classroom.

And that's really the purpose, the goal of the certification. More so than meeting a certain checklist of sets, and I think like our best teacher prep programs across the state across the nation. Their single focus is not on faculty evaluations or how many parishes they're working with. Do their candidates have an impact in the classroom and do they stick in that classroom long enough to have a long-term impact?

And when we can focus on that as teacher prep programs. I think that's the real value of a certification and the data would show. That when folks go through a high-quality ed prep provider, whether it's Southern or LRCE or Southeastern, they do have those impacts. And regardless of the school that they're in, they could be in Zachary, a very high-performing district, or they could teach where I taught back when they called AUS2, we didn't want letter grades.

And so like that, that really is the true value long term of a certification. In some parishes, some districts, there's a difference in pay. If you're certified or you're not. So you might be paid as a long-term sub if you don't have a certification. So there's like a real sort of ROI for the individual there.

But when we think about this as a state or as a region, investing in a better prepared, more qualified teacher trade workforce, not just helps the students in those rooms, but those people feel more successful because they are and they stick in the classroom longer. And that's a very big deal.

So our teachers, when we replace one in Baton Rouge, that costs us about $20,000 per head, give or take. You can imagine that if we lose 100 teachers, the economic impact on the parish or the district right there, it's just dramatic. That's just ignoring the fact of the disruption for those students education or those schools' education.

Pepper Roussel: Thank you. So that sounds very much like maybe a pathway for professional success for the teacher who's certified as well as an opportunity for those students to have the best education possible for them. But I've got a question in the chat is a lack of pouring resources into schools and that's taking on.

That is taking right and that's taking on more and more duties on the teachers. Many are dropping out or not looking to become teachers. Is it a lack of resources in the parish, in the school, in the system that is helping to discourage folks wanting to become teachers?

Kyle Finke: I think that may be a technical slice, but you got to understand we have the educational system that we want right now.

If we truly wanted it different, it would be different. And so we have subscribed over time and built out a system that allows us to educate K-12 students. And I would argue, Dr. Peoples, you would agree to this, I think, too. Post back at the cheapest, safest level. That's really what we desire unfortunately, from our K-12 education system.

Can we keep kids safe? And we can we keep them in a place during the week where that happens and the quality of what goes on there is something we wring our hands about, but we really don't want to tackle as a systemic issue.

Dr. VerJanis Peoples: When we talk about a lack of resources in our school of education, we're talking about funding for recruitment and retention efforts.

And so that can be expensive because faculty and teacher education programs play dual roles. You not only have to teach, but now the, now they're expecting our faculty to help to recruit students, so now we have to. put on a lot of hats. And so when we go out to recruit, we want to have funds to do that.

We want to be able to offer scholarships, more and more scholarships for teacher education because there are some barriers to entering teacher education. And one of the barriers that's been nationally recognized is the cost of it. We talk about these practices exam, a sitting for one could cost you $300-400.

And then students have to take two or three of those. And then when they do not pass, they have to take them over. So there are some financial barriers for students going in. However, let me quickly add, we have several programs we have implemented recently to try to help to relieve the financial barriers.

You may have seen recently that Southern University is starting one of the first teacher apprenticeship programs. And the point of that apprenticeship program is that you work while you earn, meaning that we will pay teachers pay perspective or let me say teacher candidates. And we're going to start with paraprofessionals in the field while they are earning the degree.

And so those are the kind of resources that we're looking for to attract student candidates back into our field. So we are working with not only with the apprenticeship programs, but state is stepping up, giving stipends for students that are doing field experiences. I just finished a federal grant for the federal student work-study grant that helps students while they're out in the schools observing and participating in activities.

We provide funds for them to go out and do those things. And so when we talk about funding and resources. We're talking about fundings to help us to recruit to help us help our students, especially our students with financial barriers that occur while they're in our programs. And also we look at retention efforts.

What are we doing to keep our teachers here? Our perspective teachers in our program.

Pepper Roussel: So there's also a little bit of chatter in the chat about higher education, right? So is there some sort of a certification or is there not a certification for instructors, professors who are in higher ed?

Dr. VerJanis Peoples: Of course, first we have to have that PhD in higher education.

And in our programs, you have to be, qualified in teacher education. My background is I started my career teaching. I spent 15 years teaching middle school, can you believe? And I enjoyed every minute of it. My middle school students still call me Miss Peoples. I have airline pilots that want to know if I need a ticket someplace because I taught them in the seventh grade.

And that's the joy of teaching, you can look back and if you were good, your students still remember you and they'll do things for you. So I started teaching and then I moved into higher education, but to move into higher education, I had to get a PhD, which I did from Kansas State University in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in elementary and secondary education.

And so there's, we are fully accredited. And this is another thing you have to remember what to be fully accredited. They assess your qualifications to head certain programs will fully accredited by the National Council for education. And we are fully accredited by SACS. And with that, there are qualifications to enter our education.

Kyle Finke: Add one flavor to that we, in our best ed prep programs, it's not just whether the SACS or CAPE is a part of that. I see those faculties and those departments constantly asking the questions of what else can we do? And they're not sitting on what they've already done. And I think I see that in our most high-performing universities because there is a bar that needs to be met for an accreditation and there's a bar of like how we get even better.

And that's certainly an iterative process. Now, one thing that Dr. Peoples mentioned around what's it take to keep and retain high-quality people in our departments, but also recruit high-quality candidates. I worked a coach for a while with Andrea Lewis at Spelman and she'd say, Kyle, "Moms aren't sending their kids here to become teachers. I'm not writing a check to this college so that my kid can go work away in a school setting." And that's a real like stigma and barrier that's there for our university prep providers, especially that we have to tackle.

And you're talking about, Deborah at Grambling and Dr. Peoples , your work here, like in many cases, these schools were founded because we needed teachers. They were the normal school. That's why the university existed. What, and then you were talking about that previous enrollment thing. It used to make up just a huge number. This is not just in our HBCUs.

Our university systems were built around training educators first. And that's not the major 30, 40 years back. And our campuses were dominated by education majors. And so it is very stark difference in our enrollment numbers across the U. S., not just in Louisiana.

Pepper Roussel: We've got a couple of questions that are popping up in the chat.

We'll do the easy ones before we continue down the path of... really interesting questions that have popped up into my head. Are K to 12 teacher certification criteria aligned with those for early childhood educators for Children zero to three and for pre-K teachers. If those standards are disconnected, is that impacting student learning?

Dr. VerJanis Peoples: We have four certification areas and high school teachers do not teach kindergarten students, so people are certified in distinct areas. If you're pre K-3, you're certified to teach those grades. If you are, and that's called early childhood. If you are certified in grades 1-5, your elementary, you're certified to teach those grades.

If you are certified in middle school, which will certify you for grades 4-8 you're certified to teach those grades. If you're certified in secondary education, that means you teach in high school, you're certified to teach grades 6-12 and you're certified to teach those grades.

Are there any overlapping skills? Yes, there are. All of our students must learn how to read, and so there are students required to teach to, to learn reading skills across. How to teach reading skills across all those grades, but the certification structure and all these programs are evaluated separately is that we have those type of structures in place.

Now we do have K12 certification and that's for music teachers because they have to teach across all areas. And so there are some skills, knowledge bases that are all integrated and not only that, but through our programs and basic skills, but those are the certification structures. So, We wouldn't have a high, but let me say in the midst of what we're doing in some of the rural areas, we do have a lot of teachers teaching out of the area because you didn't have anybody else to place in those schools.

So that's where we talk about the critical shortage of certified teachers. You have a lot of people that's teaching in grades in which they are not certified to teach. And it may be because they just can't find anyone else to put in those places. So they are uncertified if they're teaching in out of their area.

Pepper Roussel: Got it. So you can be certified, just not certified to teach where you are.

Dr. VerJanis Peoples: Yes.

Pepper Roussel: Before I get to the questions in the chat, that reminds me of something I was thinking about earlier. I have a girlfriend who is teaching at a high school. She's got a, she majored in. Philosophy, I think, ended up becoming an actress and was teaching theater.

I have a different friend who's got a master's in microbiology who was substituting in elementary school based on the criteria that I've heard. These are both uncertified and unqualified teachers. Is that accurate? If they're teaching out of there?

Kyle Finke: I was just saying could be it depends on the school that they're at. So when we're talking about uncertified out-of-field and so on, we are talking about just the slice of schools that are public. So that's the only, only ones that we track or rate and it's already a hint of this in the chat.

Why is it that those are the only ones that we're counting here? And you think about how we build systems to keep things or perpetuate things the way they are. I think there's some interesting thoughts that you could go down as you consider that. If somebody's teaching drama in a school and it's Catholic High or a charter district or another parochial school. Like that's not going to show up in the data there.

Dr. VerJanis Peoples: And let me add something to this quickly. I've seen some uncertified teachers that really can teach, and they based They may have acquired their skills while they're on the job. And for this reason, we have what we call alternative certification programs.

This means that you can be in a school out of area, not certified, but if you enter one of our alternative certification programs, we can certify you while you are working in certain areas. We have a lot of pathways that are open to get people certified. You can come through our, you get a degree, if you have a non-education degree and you really want to teach, you can come through our Masters of Arts in Teaching program that we will give you get you a master's degree in a year's time and certification.

You still have to pass certain exams and you have to go through certain coursework, but we can still certify you. We have universities and other districts that's offering certification through their school districts at the undergraduate level. So we have a lot of different certification programs that we're trying to get these people in that's in our schools that really want to teach.

And we really want them, in our schools, they're doing a good job with our students.

Pepper Roussel: Thank you. Erica, your hand is up.

Erica Smith: Yeah. Sorry, I cannot be on camera today. There were some technical issues, but I just wanted to speak on this topic because before coming to Capital Area United Way, I worked in the schools only as, a sub and para not as a certified teacher, but of course, teachers talk. And so I worked in one of the low-paying districts in the state and, I would voice about how I wanted to go back to, I wanted to go to school, get my certification.

And then I landed my position at Capital Area United Way. And they were like, baby, do not go get your teaching certification because one, I make closely. To what they make because the pay is so low. And then I think as parents, because I'm a parent myself, sometimes we don't realize what the day-to-day teacher goes through with children's behaviors and having to work with 30 different students because our classrooms are overcrowded.

But working with 30 different behaviors. And then some parents you can call home, you can send letters. The principals call and the parents are like, that's the teacher's fault. It's not my child, and then, they don't try to rectify their behaviors at home. And so it's a lot of stress on our teachers for pay that I've seen some teachers leave and go to Walmart because they said the stress level is just much easier.

Even though they have this certification and I think we just don't look at that enough about what our teachers go through on a day to day. For what they get paid because at $40,000 I think in my district, their pay was $42,000 for certified. Some people make, close to that, and we have we don't have to deal with students, 30 students for 10 months, imagine working at a daycare for $40,000 and also having to hear feedback from parents. And it's always your fault. My kids not making the grades that they should be. What are you doing wrong? Teachers go through a lot and I don't think that we appreciate teachers enough and that's just my input on it.

Dr. VerJanis Peoples: Thank you for that. You just mentioned five things. That's the top of the list on the national list of why teachers leave the classroom. Student discipline challenges. We all watch the news. That's an issue. Low pay. It's in the news right now. I noticed that school districts are in competition.

I see one local school district advertising. They're paying a little bit more than the other school district. So you'll see Yeah, An exodus of teachers, running from one school district to another because of the pay we've taken it to the it's not only Louisiana, but it's on a national level.

We need to increase the pay of teachers. Teacher burnout is an issue. It is a very challenging job. We have to do a lot. We're not paid. We have to be a doctor, lawyer. You have to be a counselor. You have to be everything. We have to be all the professions that people do separately in and we do it all in a day's time.

The lack of influence and respect is another issue that's listed as one of the national reasons why I teach in these classrooms. We are aware of that. We try to provide faculty development, professional development on these issues, but the key issue is, and we are seeing it across the nation, not only locally but across the state, is the low pay.

Our teachers, we have a lot of teachers that are getting certified in Louisiana and going over to Texas. Why? Because of more pay.

Kyle Finke: I was gonna add a flavor to this. So maybe we'll move from gosh, this is horrible to some thoughts on We can't tomorrow change the pay structure of teachers, even if we could, it wouldn't, it's only one of the things that Dr. Peoples is talking about, right?

And so sometimes it's helpful for me to look at where it might be working and we love to do this in Baton Rouge, we travel to Austin or Greenville or wherever and do a site visit and come back with all great ideas, but if you look at the time we ask a teacher to be live in front of a student in the U. S., compared to other developed, high performing, high education countries, it's 20% more on average. And then for the highest performing, it's almost 35% more. What that means is, if I'm a teacher in Louisiana, I might spend about 1, 200 hours a year standing in front of students, walking desk to desk, Intergaging in small groups, et cetera, live teacher instruction.

If I were that same teacher in Europe, I might be spending 700 to 800 hours live standing in front of students. What do I do with the rest of that time? They're investing in those teachers ability to sit and collaborate with other professionals, treat them as professionals to solve the issues of some of these more challenging situations that they might encounter in the classroom.

There are different ways of structuring this that we are simply behind on. And so we, when I say we have the system that we desire, we seem reticent to change. And if I think What might be true then, and I would argue it's true, most of the people on this call, I'll make a broad generalization, can navigate a system, or write a check, or be mobile enough to, and not all, to put our students or our kids in a different situation.

But there's a huge swath. The fact that we're even asking if there is a teacher shortage the reality is yes. There's no other way around it. But what happens if, what is the true purpose of education? I saw a version of this question in the chat. And we're like, what do I want from K-12 education?

And if that's not what we're getting, then why aren't we motivated to change that? And I think that has to deal with who we're close to. And when you think about setting ourselves up for change, whether it's an individual or as an organization there's actually some biomechanics around this.

If I scan my brain and I ask myself to think about myself in the current state it would have a certain brain pattern in an MRI. And if I ask myself to think about a stranger, a different pattern emerges. We could do that across all society. If I ask myself to think about myself in the future, the pattern is the same as me thinking about a stranger.

If you think about why does that matter, okay if your son or a close friend asks you to help them out this weekend, even though you already had plans, you might grumble about it, but you're probably trying to figure out a way to help them out. Maybe it's move out of an apartment or clean out a garage because they're close to you.

It's hard for us to make decisions about that future self because our minds, our brains don't think about that future version of our organization or ourself or our system. As ourselves, they are a stranger and it's harder for us to commit. It's harder for us to change what we're doing when we're trying to do that with a stranger.

And so there's a certain amount of our built-in system that we love. And it also supports a sort of a power structure that we already have. Not just in Baton Rouge. This is a US thing for sure. And in other societies, it plays out a little bit differently. But the reason why that change is so difficult to make, the reason why it's so hard for us to commit, both individually and as organizations, we tend to see that future version of the system or ourselves as somebody that's much further apart from us.

And so the trick would be, how do we as a community bring that future version of our educational system and bring that future version of what we would want to be true closer to now. It'll never be the same self. That's a different self. But we have to discipline ourselves to time travel a bit and do the things that allow us to see that 20 year down the road path as next door to us asking us to help with a garage clean out to carry my analogy way too far.

And so I think like our work as leaders is to think about, okay, how does it that we help ourselves and our organizations and our communities? Time travel, if you will, to that future piece and bring it closer to us so that we can start making the decisions now that don't feel right, but are necessary for us to actually change this.

So we can bump teacher pay by $20,000. That ain't going to solve the fact that when I taught at Brodmer Middle, there were no doors in the boys restroom and the mirrors were ripped off the wall. And those kids, they ain't got a choice on where they're going to school because, they're not writing a check to go to Catholic High.

That's where the bus takes them.

Pepper Roussel: So so many things, but there was something that was mentioned early on, and I think that we've seen a bit of a thread throughout the chat, which is that teachers are not treated with the same dignity or respect that you would get in other professions, right? Kyle, you mentioned that parents were not dropping their kids off at, their girls off at Spelman in order to become teachers.

The tuition's higher than what teachers make. There's no, that it just, it doesn't make economic sense. But money as Dr. Peoples echoed is only a part of the issue, right? So if we currently have the system that we want. How do we get the system that we need? What is the process? What do we need to do?

Besides sitting around waxing nostalgic on a Friday morning with me. What do we need to do in order to get there? How do we get to a place that, that these what is it? Go back and, whatever, come back with great ideas. That they're either respected, implemented, what do we do, Dr. Peoples.

Dr. VerJanis Peoples: As I stated when I started that, teacher education is the most overregulated program that we have, and it may because, it may go back to my comment when I started that one thing we've all had is that we've all had a teacher. And so it's just like in a football game, everybody think, we want to have to say something about that.

We have to look at the people that's regulating our programs, which starts State Department and through our other governing boards to get their attention on some things. And I think over the last five years I've noticed that we've been getting attention on things 'cause things change.

We raised our hands in the higher education saying we can't get these students in with the regulations you have in place. And so that changed. And so we need to continue to get to the people that's regulating our teacher education programs and let me go from higher education back to the classroom. I hear my teachers saying the same thing.

We are overregulated in our classroom. We just want to teach. We just want to have the freedom to teach in our classroom. And as a seasoned teacher, I go back to being reminded of how we operate in the classrooms that every child had to learn and we were there to teach those and we had to teach those skills until they got it and we didn't have a certain amount of time that you could teach this.

You had to move on to something else and I hear that in classrooms. We're being overregulated and so we're talking to districts and school systems about the process of teaching and learning again. I go back to we have to look at why you know this overregulation of programs. You know why is this and it affects all of us because we have children. I have grandchildren in the schools now and I am still in classrooms. We have to go back and take a look at what's going on in our schools and we have to speak out about it and then we have to all be on the same page.

And that is to better the schools in which our students attend. And so we really have to just pay close attention. I could say more about that, but I feel like I'm running out of time and I don't want to open up another. Subject and then we have to go on and on, but it's just, it is obvious that I need more time to talk about this.


Pepper Roussel: So Kyle dropped it in the chat, but I think it's brilliant. So I'm going to give it a voice. Our system of public education was never designed to exist in a market. It was the only game in town.

Dr. VerJanis Peoples: Yeah, we're running it like a business now, we have a lot going on. You have a lot of people in this game called education.

Now we have different schools that are popping up. We have different organizations, everybody want to get in this business of producing teachers and teaching and organizing schools. We have so many, we just don't know what to do with all of the different entities that are getting involved in teacher and teacher education now and getting involved with our school system.

And, we talk about over regulations, we have some schools, we regulate other schools. We do not regulate and it's just becoming confusing. So we really need to get things back in order.

Kyle Finke: I grew up in Rome, Missouri. There is one school in my county, right? If you were Catholic, you could go 30 minutes to Sacred Heart in the nearest town of Consequence, but you went to Green Ridge K 12 school. You started in one end and you graduated out the other side of that building, and there were no choices.

And my richest classmates went to that school, and my Catholic classmates went to that school, and my atheist classmates went to that school and the kid that just moved in from Whiteman Air Force Base went to that school. If we only had one system, the system would be different than it is right now.

If my last name was Perkins, or Kleinpeter, or, these are real families, by the way, in Baton Rouge, and if they all went to the same K-12 system, it would be different than it is now.

Pepper Roussel: Truth. No lies were spoken here on this fine morning. There is something that we have not hit upon. It was mentioned. I was a question about it earlier, though counselors. And I will adjust the question for this moment, which is our counselors held to the same standard. We've got this idea of diversity.

What are counselors doing if indeed so Dr. Peeples had mentioned teachers or instructors are now expected to recruit. They are expected to and something that Eric had mentioned there, managing behaviors and psych, psychology. What about our counselors? What is their role? Are they subject to the same scrutiny and how can they be used to help in situations in classroom settings?

Dr. VerJanis Peoples: Our counselors are very critical. Our research tells us that one in every four people you'll find may have a mental health problem. And so with that said, it's really important that our counselors are in place and in schools and working with our students. And so the qualifications become a counselor.

We are overseen by an organization and these counselors are highly qualified and certified when they leave programs and go into our schools. Do we have enough counselors? I would say no certified counselors. I would say no, but we really need to make sure that we have counselors that are working with our students in schools because not only do we need them to advise And to make sure that they're getting the help they need in order for the students to be successful in the schools.

Because mental health is one of the critical issues we're dealing with now. And we work with our teachers, we're training teachers, we do take them through psychology classes to be aware of the challenges they may have to face when they get to the classroom.

Kyle Finke: Yeah, all our teachers that go through our program spend extensive time thinking about trauma-informed practice and how we're helping.

Folks with high ACE scores, those of you that are familiar with that that they've experienced throughout their lives and how that has an impact on their ability for them to interpret or engage with the material that's in front of them. It's not a determinant. It doesn't mean that they can't be the next highest performing student coming out of a college or a university, but it's something you must take into account if you're a highly trained or a highly effective educator for sure.

And if we had more counselor or ancillary positions, just social work you have other like Extra classes type positions. This would afford our classroom educators that are involved with like core cub subjects, math, science, English, social studies, more time to collaborate, more time to feel professional because those students would maybe be engaged.

There are rules about how much, how many minutes they have in PE and recess and ancillary courses, but I can tell you as a classroom educator and as somebody that works with a lot of districts. There's a lot of doubled-up classes. There's a lot of ICP classes and in the parish here with 6570 kids in them because they just don't have enough there.

You think about what actual physical education is going on in a 90-minute period with 65 students in one teacher.

Dr. VerJanis Peoples: And we need counselors because it's difficult for teachers to teach with disruption in classrooms. It takes away 15 to 20 minutes for you to stop and correct a behavior while the other students are not acting out.

They are being deprived of those teaching moments. And so you have to get those specific issues out of the classroom into the hands of a qualified person that can help the person that's causing the problem so you can teach the other 25 students in the classroom. So we can't deprive others. Of that opportunity to learn.

And so we really need good counselors so that we can move those behaviors where they should be.

Pepper Roussel: So my last question I fear that I'm not going to be giving it enough time to get to do it justice, but I'm going to ask it anyway. There was something that Kyle mentioned earlier, which was about being able, or maybe it was you, Dr. B. Somebody said it. That it was about being able to see yourself reflected in the instructor.

As we are ramping up and we are getting back to school and we've got, Casey mentioned earlier, right? That Alfreda Tilman Bester talked about the...

So as we talked about, or we heard earlier, the political malpractice that came out of the state legislature this year. What are the possibilities that we will not be we are losing good, qualified, maybe even certified teachers who happen to be part of the LGBTQ IA community who are now leaving so that there are some children who will not see themselves represented, who cannot express themselves as teachers.

What, if anything, when we talk about diversity, are we considering that group? Are we considering these educators? Because, despite whatever other things you're doing in your life, if you have committed your work, You're like yourself to education. You're still an educator. So help me with this idea of diversity and how it is that we are integrating all types of teachers and educators, instructors, mentors who show up the way that they show up.

Dr. VerJanis Peoples: When we talk about diversity, we're not just talking about the racial diversity makeup of our schools. We're talking about the gender diversity. We have fewer and fewer men entering our teaching profession. And so there's a lot that goes into diversity, but I do know that it's critically important that students be able to see themselves reflected in the classroom.

And that's an age-old national issue. And so what do we do about it? We are investing in programs to try to produce more minorities in our classrooms. I just finished the shield project, which is a black males project. I noticed other schools have black male projects. I can't think of the name of it right now and person would probably.

But anyway, we have a lot of programs that we're investing in to recruit more minorities in the classroom. Our program at Southern University is one of those programs that specifically produce minority teachers for the state of Louisiana and the nation. And so we are trying to beef up our recruitment for those school systems that you do not have.

That reflected in your faculty population. We're working with some a couple of doing some professional development and we are sending our students out to those schools to get their observation participation hours. Now we try to connect with schools for their, residency because they have to, our students must spend most of their times.

We don't teach in the conforms of the four walls anymore. Our students spend most of their times in schools and because of that, then they are in those schools and so they help to reflect the population of students that are in those schools. And so that's one of the things we're doing. We are placing our students in schools by request of the principals or other administrators in that school.

School who have certified mentor teachers to mentor our students as they are doing their observation participation hours. So that's one of the things we're doing.

Kyle Finke: And Pepper to answer your original question, like the again, it's the system that we want. If a kid can't go to school and see somebody that is like them that's gonna be a long-term issue for sure.

And we're gonna make rules that support What we want more broadly. And that's a real challenging like square to circle or circle to square as we think about what should we be tackling in a K-12 classroom? At what age level should we be tackling it? Is this even something that we should use the word tackle on?

Or just no, there's differences that we have to embrace and understand if we're going to move forward as a productive society. For sure.

Pepper Roussel: So this has been a great conversation. Are there any questions? Please put a virtual hands up and let me know if there's something that you wanted to hear the answer to that I didn't get to. I only asked an hour of Dr. Peoples and Kyle Finke's time. And so I don't want to keep you all here, especially since Dr. Peoples I'm going to say that she moved some things around in order to stay the full hour with us. I don't know if that's true, don't care, don't tell me the truth. Anyway thank you, Dr. Anderson, excuse me, Reverend Anderson for showing up in the chat with yes, voting does matter. I agree. Something that y'all did talk about from Oregon that.

We do have a lot more need than we do have money. But again, the, something that Kyle said a few times, we have the system that we want, but I do wonder as well, who benefits from this broken system? What is the long game?

Kyle Finke: Because I told you to cut in on me. And so I feel like it's fair, but I actually have an issue or take umbrage with the district and the state's push for teacher prep providers.

We do a very good job of recruiting a racially diverse and economically diverse teacher cohort. Roughly 55% of our folks that come through LRCE come from a low-income background or a person of color or both. And if you could put that up against the other I'm going to say on this call and you guys can shout me out the schools that don't serve those populations, that's actually really good.

But how is it all of a sudden an initiative for me to recruit people of color into a low-paying, unrespected profession as a white person in a position of power? There's something about that doesn't seem like it would be an anti-racist act. And if it's not anti-racist, we know what it is.

Pepper Roussel: I'm gonna need somebody else to come up. I can't address that.

Casey Phillips: It was incredible. Both of you. Thank y'all so much and everyone in the chat.

Honestly, there's like the chat warriors and then there's the vocal warriors, right? But I know that, Pepper and I would like to open space. If anybody didn't get to say all the words in the chat and they would like to come off mute, I'd love to get your perspectives. You don't have to, it doesn't have to be about a question already said.

Alfreda Tillman Bester: Pepper. I do want to just reiterate what Kyle said about us having the system that we want. Yesterday we had our legislative wrap-up at the Law Center in conjunction with Louisiana Progress. And it was about children and families on yesterday. And the thing that I mentioned was, the cultural kinds of things that literally show up.

Can and Native American cultures where when people read each other, they ask the question, How are the Children? If you want to know how a community is doing, you ask the question, How are the Children? And there is a disinvestment in educating our Children. And quite frankly, it is When you see people from the business community at the Louisiana legislature lobbying to make sure that children's parents don't have a living wage, that is an issue.

All of those things are rooted in poverty, and it is so that, okay, in part, let me just say that, because I don't want to put everything in one boat, but it is in part so that we have I'm just going to call it what it is. Slave wage, slave labor available to corporations. If we don't have an educated population and we need someone to do menial tasks, let's assure that we do not educate our children.

We're not concerned about whether or not children our young people are certified in teaching Dr. Peoples. Dr. Peoples does a wonderful job of getting people into Southern University's education department. I'm sorry, not even, it's not even a school of education anymore, is it Dr. Peoples? It's a school of education.

Dr. VerJanis Peoples: It's not a college anymore.

Alfreda Tillman Bester: It's not a college of education anymore because of the disinvestment but and the disincentives. If you have a young person who wants to teach and they may be excellent at teaching, but they are hampered by a culturally insensitive testing system to exclude them from the process.

That is insanity. That is absolute insanity. And are we concerned about it? Absolutely not, because let me tell you something. If we were concerned about whether or not teachers were actually certified, do you think for one second that we would be, we would have a system set up where young white kids who go to private and parochial schools don't have certified teachers?

Are you serious right now? Let's just call a thing. And that's a thing.

Casey Phillips: Wow. Wow. Sorry. Everybody laugh not to cry.

Alfreda Tillman Bester: Sorry. It's just the way the cookie crumbles.

Casey Phillips: The truth is good. Tracy, I saw you come off mute.

Traci Vincent: Good morning everyone. Thanks Casey. When I was at LSU, I remember I was. in the middle of a class and there was an announcement that the desegregation case in these banners parish schools had been settled finally.

And this court case had been going on for about, I don't know, maybe 25, 27 years. And I joined this call about 30 minutes in. So I don't know if this was brought up already. So excuse me if I'm repeating myself, but it's just I would be remiss if I didn't mention that. We have, a dark past that we have to come to grips with not only in East Baton Rouge Parish but in the whole nation with regards to, our conversations about what needs to happen next to improve our education systems.

I find that the trend is if you disinvest and you lower the education standard, then you can control the population easier. And, following the legislature this past session, teachers got a, teachers got an one-time $3,000 pay raise. One time $3,000. I don't even know how much of that they will see, actually see.

Once, they get, that gets eaten up by taxes and all the other things. But it's just not a priority. And I think the how is really the big question. Because we know what needs to happen. Voter engagement. If we could get people who gave a hoot about anybody, truly anybody in the state and elected them to office.

We would see a lot of gainful change that we want to see. And I've, been involved with education on, a number of levels. I come from educators. My mother has desegregated her high school. She desegregated Redemptorist. She retired as an administrator from East Baton Rouge Parish.

It's so many educators in my family. I have dabbled into education myself, teaching nutrition education courses in public schools and noticing that a lot of the kids don't even have a teacher that day. I don't know how the schools are managing that. And you have to just be so deliberate about how you navigate the school system if you want to give your kids half a chance.

Again, it's like, where do we start? Maybe healing from our desegregation case in the dark past in East Baton Rouge Parish. Along with engaging voters again to wake up and realize there are people making decisions about how money is spent on education in the state and they don't care about you.

You have to give them a hard time and make the legislation reflect what you need for your community. But we're all exhausted. We you know, just coming out of a pandemic and taking on another task is like, Oh my gosh, I just don't have time. Thank you. But it's something we have to wake up about because our teachers do deserve better.

And as I've heard on this call from many people, our kids deserve better. I guess if we dive in, we'll figure out how, but that's just what's on my heart with this discussion. I'm just grateful that it's on our topic today.

Pepper Roussel: Thank you, Tracy. Reverend Anderson.

Rev. Alexis Anderson: Good morning. I just wanted to add a couple of thoughts. One is that I did put in the chat that voting matters. And as most of you know who have heard me at any time talk about this, the data tells us exactly what people are thinking. And our numbers for school board elections, etcetera, are low and low.

And the reality is in many ways are in fact telling us that this system doesn't work for them in any level. And one of the ironies is that until we come back to what is the unifier, and I don't take away the fact that people need to be adequately compensated, et cetera, et cetera.

But in many communities, the big footprints around the charter school movements, et cetera, et cetera, were based on parents who felt like they weren't getting what they need. They were special populations that weren't getting what they need. That federal law says that a unsheltered child has a right to be educated in their neighborhood school.

And yet, as somebody who went for years into schools and tried to get enforcement of the McKinney Veto Act, that school districts purposely tried to put those children out. And so one of my challenges is always that if We can win a national championship in sports, and somehow the budget just go right out the window.

And yet, the thing that is the one common denominator for all of us, we're not on the same page. Watching the hideous playout of East Baton Rouge's budgeting process on full display was a classic example of that. because the reality is it isn't just the teachers.

I put in the chat. Everybody has a story about a teacher who literally changed their life. Good and bad. And one of the things that I do think that has to happen is that every major statewide position is on the ballot this year. And if you don't hear any questions about education, if you're not hearing community groups push education, There is a message in that absence. And I think we have to acknowledge that oftentimes these conversations get centered on almost everything.

But as Dr. Bester put it so beautifully, how are the children? So I just wanted to share that we have a choice and that choice is to get registered, to get engaged, to get educated and then vote.

Pepper Roussel: Thank you, ma'am. Thank you, ma'am. And thank you to our speakers this morning. Do y'all have any last words? Because I'm not trying to follow that up. I'm gonna leave it to you.

Kyle Finke: I just appreciate the opportunity to share a little bit. Thank you for asking Pepper and One Rouge. And hopefully that was helpful at all. I think anytime I come to these, I learn as much from the people that are talking around me. And I always have this imposter syndrome of they do know that.

I don't have a doctorate in any of this. I'm just like a guy that runs an organization,

Dr. VerJanis Peoples: I'd also like to thank you pepper and the others on the call for allowing us to speak this morning. I am just pleased to hear so many good comments. I've learned as Kyle has said so much from just listening to you.

As Dr. Bester said, we have to keep this in mind. How the Children. And that answer will guide us and lead us in the direction that we need to go. Our primary mission is to train teachers how to teach. We're going to keep that mission as I continue to train teachers. But we also want to do as much as we can to remove as many barriers as we can so that we can get those teachers, good qualified teachers, back in the classroom.

So I look forward and I hope we can continue this conversation because this is what we need. We need to be heard and we need to be recognized. And so I thank you for this opportunity.

Pepper Roussel: Without a doubt, this conversation will continue and to echo a thought, a theory, something I've said before. If we continue to vote for the lesser of two evils, we will still have the result of evil.

That means... that if you want a difference, you want to change. So you got to find somebody who's actually going to represent our interests. I say that collectively because the people who are stepping up are not necessarily those people. And even though they throw crumbs every now and again, it ain't getting us fed, y'all. It ain't getting us fed.

Anyways, on that high note community announcements, what's going on this weekend in Baton Rouge, y'all?

Nothing? All right. I guess we are Ramping up and resting, getting ready for back to school. Thank you for being a part of our Friday morning and for spending part of your Friday morning with me. Y'all know how much I enjoy you being here. I really appreciate

Thank you, Sherreta.

I really appreciate y'all being here.

We will see y'all next week. Same bad time, same bad channel and again, a special thank you to Kyle Finke and Dr. Peoples for joining us. Have a great weekend.


Community Announcements

25 views0 comments


bottom of page