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Quick Take: A Conspicuous Absence OPSB Superintendent Declines Invite to RSD Press Conference

On Tuesday, Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard held a press conference to announce a series of new test security measures in the wake of ongoing investigations into allegations of cheating at Landry-Walker High School and ReNEW Sci Tech Academy.

Beginning this spring, outside monitors will oversee the administration of the state’s annual tests at every RSD school. These monitors will also attend staff trainings on test security protocol and will issue public reports outlining their findings at the conclusion of the testing period.

Dobard was joined at the conference by the leaders of all 19 charter networks in the RSD, who together issued a statement [see full statement below] supporting the new security measures and reiterating their commitment to accountability and testing:

”As school leaders, we feel it is our collective duty to take additional action to demonstrate publicly that our testing practices are honest and above board, and that our students’ results are legitimate and meaningful measures of progress.”

Erika McConduit, President & CEO of the Urban League of New Orleans, joined school leaders and RSD officials at the press conference.
Erika McConduit, President & CEO of the Urban League of New Orleans, joined school leaders and RSD officials at the press conference.

The one person who was conspicuously absent from the press conference was Dobard’s counterpart, Orleans Parish School Board Superintendent Henderson Lewis, who declined an invitation to participate in the event.

Why? Because it wasn’t politically advantageous for him to attend. After all, Lewis has spent much of the past year advocating for the return of RSD charters to local control and RSD opponents are already using the recent cheating revelations to bolster the case for return.

But if Henderson Lewis wants to be the leader of a unified New Orleans school district, he needs to act like the leader of a unified New Orleans school district. That means putting petty political considerations aside and supporting the city’s schools regardless of whether they’re overseen by OPSB or RSD.

By skipping the press conference on Tuesday, Superintendent Lewis squandered a perfect opportunity to show OPSB has changed and that politics no longer take precedence over the best interests of schools.

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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