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The Definition of Outrageous A Look At What Happens When OPSB Officials Don't Like Your Message

Today I received several emails from Vimeo that they had taken down a few of my video clips in response to notices they received that I violated their Community Guidelines. Around the same time, Danielle Dreilinger, education reporter at the Times-Picayune, tweeted the following about these videos:

I had shared these videos on Twitter in urging eligible Recovery School District charters to remain with the RSD rather than return to the oversight of the Orleans Parish School Board. Apparently, these videos hit a nerve with someone at OPSB, so much so that they sought to have them taken offline and advised reporters not to watch them (I have since reposted the videos on YouTube here and here).

The irony of all of this is that these so-called “anti-OPSB videos” are anything but “outrageous” – in fact, they’re unaltered clips of current OPSB board members at public meetings engaging in shameful, embarrassing behavior. One is a video of Board Member Leslie Ellison testifying before the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee in 2012 about her refusal to sign a contract with the Louisiana Department of Education because it included a clause prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. She was testifying in support of a bill that would have allowed charter schools to discriminate against gays and lesbians.1 The other clip is from a July 2013 OPSB board meeting in which then-Board President Ira Thomas goes off on a racially-charged tirade against Interim Superintendent Stan Smith.

I don’t consider it outrageous to remind charter schools that this is the type of behavior they can expect to deal with if they choose to return to the oversight of OPSB. What I do consider outrageous is the following:

  • OPSB has been without a permanent superintendent since June 30th, 2012 and their search for a district leader is currently floundering
  • In the meantime, a board faction led by Ira Thomas has repeatedly tried to remove Interim Superintendent Stan Smith for no reason other than the color of his skin
  • OPSB members condone and defend bullying at school board meetings, including hecklers who direct “racial or other types of slurs” at speakers addressing the board
  • OPSB has spent the bulk of its time over the last several years embroiled in infighting over the allocation of district construction contracts rather than focusing on substantive issues impacting the children the district serves
  • A resolution to rededicate a school board millage to create a maintenance fund for school buildings passed by only one vote, after several members opted to put politics above the best interests of our public school students

Given all of the Orleans Parish School Board’s shortcomings over the past several years, the only thing outrageous is that anyone would believe that charter schools should return to local control.

  1. Subsequently, Ellison insinuated that being gay or lesbian is a “choice” in a heated exchange with an openly gay colleague on the school board. 

Written by Peter Cook

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.


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