10-Step Program For New Orleans Public Schools, Katrina finished the job begun by years of neglect and mismanagement. The hurricane has left us with a relatively clean slate. We now have an unprecedented opportunity to get things right. Whether state run or "charterized," with or without vouchers, a school board, or a teacher's union, the following 10 ideas should be considered:
1. Eliminate bureaucratic waste. In the United States on average, only 61.5 percent of the operational budget for education actually makes it to the classroom. We can do better. Every dollar spent on Gen. DeGaulle Avenue (site of the School Board office) is a dollar that could have gone to a teacher or child. Put the money where it's needed.
2. Rebuild smaller (and not just out of necessity). Big schools don't work. Break them up into small, manageable learning communities. Give teachers and staff a real opportunity to know and meet the needs of their students and parents.
3. Recruit, hire and retain the very best and brightest teachers. Tap programs like Teach for America and the business community. If the Peace Corps can find qualified volunteers to work in Chad or Mongolia, we can certainly do the same for the Crescent City.
4. Invest in technology. For the longest time, technology was overbought and underused in schools. Finally, it's catching up to its potential. Virtual libraries and museums, online standard-based assessments, WebQuests and more can bridge the digital divide and truly enhance learning. Now's the time to both spend and use.ÊÊÊ
5. Require parental involvement. It takes an entire community to educate a child. Without support from home, progress in the classroom is severely diminished. We need to remember that while public education is a right, it also comes with responsibilities.
6. Create and maintain a safe, comfortable and intellectually stimulating learning environment. Our schools can and should become a child's favorite destination. From toilets that work to posters on the wall, there's a world of room for improvement.
7. Map and align the curriculum. Teaching what needs to be taught at the right time and in the best way is absolutely essential. Until we have an accurate assessment of our classrooms, it's hard to diagnose problems and make the appropriate changes.
8. Get support. New Orleans is flat on its back -- it needs all the help it can get. From the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to local university volunteers, the school system must look high and low for any and all assistance.
9. Destroy the dichotomy. Like a true banana republic, New Orleans is a city of "haves" and "have nots." Those with means get a high-quality, albeit expensive education, and those without just suffer. As Lincoln so aptly put it, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
10. Demand excellence and expect success. NOPS has become synonymous with failure. Like a losing athletic franchise, the system is caught in a vicious cycle. Folwell Dunbar More Rescues Needed I have just read the article on New Orleans animal rescue ("Dog Gone," Dec. 6). I live in Ascension Parish and volunteer with the local shelter. We are still getting at least 10-15 phone calls daily from people requesting help locating their pets. Now that the large, famous groups have left, it is left to the local small groups to deal with the problem. I hope that something can be done so this does not ever happen again. RoseAnn Bass, President Ascension Animal Advocates Minor Adjustments For what it is worth, 60 Minutes has altered its posted transcript of the program featuring the interview with St. Louis University geology professor Timothy Kusky, deleting the statement about Kusky being a flood-control expert. I would disagree with you in stating that he is an obscure professor. He actually has a good reputation in some aspects of geology and has worked in a diverse range of fields. Much of what he stated regarding the geology of the region is correct. However, his ultimate conclusion is open to debate. Karl Chauff Warm Welcome I just wanted to say "Welcome Back" and THANK YOU!!! I just moved to New Orleans in June and in the short time I was there, I looked forward to Croissant d'Or or Royal Blend on Sunday mornings to grab the latest edition of Gambit Weekly. Ever since I left the city after the storm, I have constantly checked your Web site from my temporary home in Dallas to see if you were back. I am here for one more month, but I can't wait to get back and start rediscovering the New Orleans that lured me there to begin with. And I look forward to resuming my Sundays for many great years to come. Thanks again, and all the best as we rebuild a better New Orleans!!! Tiffany Soles