Michel Martin, host of NPR’s Tell Me More, is in New Orleans today to host Chartered Waters, a discussion on the changes that have taken place in the city’s school system since Hurricane Katrina, that NPR will stream live on its website tonight.
A press release for the event quotes Martin as saying:
“We hope this will be a place for people to come together in a manner that often is not possible, a chance to meet, to pause, take a breath and understand in a real way, a holistic way, how New Orleans is educating its kids right now.”
However, the event features an ideologically lopsided group of panelists, most of whom are either ambivalent about, or hostile to the reforms that have taken place in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina:
- Karran Harper Royal – Anti-charter school activist and RSD critic
- Sarah Carr – Journalist and author of Hope Against Hope
- Doug Harris – Associate professor of economics at Tulane and director of the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans
- Larry Carter – President of the United Teachers of New Orleans
- Patrick Dobard – Superintendent of Louisiana’s Recovery School District
- Aesha Rasheed – Former education reporter for the Times-Picayune and the creator and New Orleans Parents’ Guide to Public Schools
- Joan Reilly – Principal of Homer Plessy Community School, an Orleans Parish School Board charter.
- Victor York is a founding member of Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools
- Jamia Brown is an 8th grader at Eleanor McMain, a direct-run OPSB school, and member of Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools
Ironically, while Michel Martin claims that she wants to “understand in a real way, a holistic way, how New Orleans is educating its kids right now,” educators, students, and parents from RSD charter schools are glaringly absent from the lineup.
This fact was initially brought to my attention by a revealing exchange on Twitter between Riley Kennedy, Chief of Staff at Collegiate Academies, and Eve Troeh, News Director at the local NPR station, WWNO:
When I joined Riley in asking why representatives from RSD charter schools weren’t included, WWNO responded with the dubious contention that they had little input on the composition of the panel:
— 89.9 WWNO (@WWNO) March 12, 2015
So, I put the question to Michel Martin directly:
— Peter C. Cook (@petercook) March 13, 2015
Since that time, several members of the New Orleans education community have asked Martin the same question, such as Michael Ripski, a former OPSB teacher who currently leads The Achievement Network’s work in Louisiana:
Kathy Padian, Deputy Superintendent for charter schools for the Orleans Parish School Board, pointed out that the panel doesn’t include a representative from the school board:
So, how has Martin responded? With deafening silence. However, she hasn’t been totally mute when it comes to questions about Chartered Waters. For example, she found time to respond to a loyal New Orleans listener to promote the event:
And, Michel Martin was quick to apologize to another listener who was disappointed that Chartered Waters was sold out:
Can you have a honest, nuanced discussion about the successes and failures of New Orleans’ public education reforms over the past decade without the people who are working in RSD charter schools? No, you can’t. So what accounts for Michel Martin’s refusal to address this problem – or even respond to those who have raised this issue? I think Chris Stewart, education activist, blogger, and New Orleans native, said it best: