What The New School District Would Mean to Us

If you are local, you know that there is a new proposed community school district before the legislature, and it is a hot button topic these days. The idea is to break away from the broken and crumbling East Baton Rouge Parish School System to form an independent, community district with neighborhood schools (similar to what was done in Zachary and Central, which now have some of the best schools in the state).

We have met great opposition. There are magnet parents who worry that their children would be forced to be taken out of magnet schools and put into these schools and wouldn’t receive the same benefits they have now. To those parents I want you to know we do take these concerns with great compassion, and it is my understanding that the board for the new district wants to build every school in the district to have the awesome benefits of the few magnet schools in the area. And I know that can happen. The magnet program is one thing the parish has done well, but stopping thousands of students from getting a quality education so 1,500 displaced students can stay in the magnet program just isn’t fair. Children shouldn’t have to win a lottery to get a good education.

Some believe it would racially divide Baton Rouge, and if you know me, you KNOW I would NOT be for something that promoted racial division. That is the direct antithesis of everything I stand for. However, combining the records of present public school attendance, population data and the numbers of white children who live in the area that go to private schools, we truly believe that the racial divide will be about 50/50 in the new district (which is much better than the 80black/20white as it currently stands).

Some people just want to give the EBRPSS more time to work it out. I can tell you that the last thing this parish needs is more time. They have had PLENTY of time at the expense of hundreds of thousands of kids getting some of the worst education in the country. Louisiana ranks 49 out of 50 states for education, and our parish is one of the worst in the state. Between the crazy fiscal irresponsibility, the changes in leadership every 3-4 years, the politics… It’s enough. Enough is enough. We are taking back our schools, our kids, and our community.

Finally, I want to tell you what the new school district would mean to our family. I can throw facts and figures out at you all day, but what matters to me most is my kids… Here is my letter to you:

I have a beautiful special needs son adopted from Uganda, a brilliant and gifted daughter, and a baby boy. My daughter needs a program that will challenge her, while my older son needs a program that will come along side him and help him to be the best he can be. Currently my family’s community school is Westminster which has a “D” rating. Even if it worked to send my special needs son there, I would have to ship my daughter to a different school to get her an education at a gifted program or magnet school that would benefit her best. Putting a five year old little girl on a bus at 6:30 am to be brought to a transfer station, to sit and wait for another bus, to finally get to two school hours later is acenine. Then her getting home at 4:30-5pm after 9-10 hours of being away from home is simply lunacy. If I am forced to send my children who are one grade level apart to two different schools, she will be forced to ride the bus because I cannot be two places at once, and this is unacceptable.

My family needs ONE school that fits all our needs, closeby our home. We need one place that will give my special needs son all that he requires to grow, my gifted daughter all that she needs to be challenged and learn, and a place my youngest can go in a few years that no matter his needs, we know they will be met. There is NOT ONE SCHOOL in EBRP that meets these requirements! This is unacceptable!!

It is unacceptable that we keep pouring our tax money into a system that keeps making the same poor choices over and over and over again, stuck in the “old school” way of doing things, run by the same ways of thinking and politics. It is time for a community school district where children go to neighborhood schools, where children can get a great education at just a regular school where they don’t have to win a lottery to gain entry. It’s time for kids to go to school with their neighbors, with their friends from right down the street. One reason schools in large metro areas like Houston are still good is because they are broken into smaller districts rather than one huge lump. It makes sense!

If a bill passed that helps just 1,000 students get vouchers for private schools, I beg you to support this one that will help tens of thousands of children get a quality education. Our only other choice is to move out of the parish and away from our family. It will be such a shame if Baton Rouge continues to lose the best and brightest kids because their parents refuse to be part of the system that no one will help us fix.

Please support this amendment, for me, my family, and the tens of thousands of other families whose kids deserve a quality education.

I would love to discuss this further with anyone who has questions or concerns. Feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email at meghanmatt@gmail.com.

Also, you can check out this interview I did with a local news station here.

Check out the Facebook page here and feel free to ask any questions or voice any concerns and a member of the board will try and get back with you.

Or sign the petition to help this bill pass here:

**I do want to add that EBRPSS has some amazing, quality, brilliant people who work for them. They have done right in some areas and they do deserve credit for that. However, the board and the leadership has never allowed true revolutionary change to happen where it was needed, and thus the system remains not just broken, but shattered. I do immensely respect the men and women who fight daily to make the parish better, but unfortunately it just hasn’t been enough.**
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10 Comments

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10 responses to “What The New School District Would Mean to Us

  1. Dani Hope

    I understand your concerns and agree to a certain point. My children have been a part of the magnet school system for over 12 years now, I was not a part of the lottery system as it is today. It was first come first serve back in the day. And the fact I was in line at 3:30 a.m. for my second child, I have earned the right to the magnet program! I feel some families like mine should be grandfathered in to stay where we are (and our plans for our children to graduate from BR High) or give us a choice to change if we want. Just as families moved out of EBR to get away from the EBR schools, I know of families that will move outside the boundries just to keep their children in the magnet programs.

  2. Hgtdgj

    Im sorry. Is your daughter “gifted?” Because you should make a bigger deal out of it if she is. I think you should mention it at least 6 more times to get your point across.

  3. Meghan Matt

    Dani- Thank you for your thoughts on this and your respectful post. I do hope things work out for your family to stay where they are thriving, and my family gets to be involved in a quality school.

    “HGTDGJ”- Swallow those sour grapes and get over yourself. You aren’t even brave enough to leave an actual name. I mention her abilities three times-all in context- right next to my son’s special needs. The point was to emphasize the need for one place for them to learn together, and you know it.

  4. Julie

    Dear Meghan, There is nothing about your story that isn’t familiar and true and thoughtful. I caution you regarding allowing a small group to exploit your family. You’re the perfect poster family. Trust me, it is not you and your children that anyone in the pullout group is worried about but they do need you.
    I have no problem with the idea that you should be able to send your children to a nearby school that can service all their different needs. I hope for the same. However, once this area pulls out, and it will happen, where do you all feel that leaves the kids that can no longer attend those schools in your area? Will they be able to go to a nearby school and receive all the services their family needs? Or is that not a concern? See in my opinion, it really doesn’t matter if my children go to Woodlawn or BRMHS or McKinley high school with dare i say it lots of black kids and even those darned Gardere ones. It doesn’t matter because the foundation I provide at home makes them successful no matter what is happening around them. When they grow up and go to work, they will work with people of all different backgrounds, they will work with super smart people and some who have a tougher time grasping concepts. They will work with people who look like them and some who do not.
    This pullout group is teaching children that when the problem seems to big, just run away. don’t try to solve problems for the greater good or for society in general, but serve your small group and then stand back and watch the fallout for those who don’t know enough to fight as hard as you did. These are fundamental problems with our community and they need to be solved for our community. Not just one small group of students.
    To say that people might move away if this doesn’t pass, well, that’s fine. that is certainly an option we all have. White flight was real then and it’s real now. To those who keep wanting to say this is not a racial issue, i ask that you please wake up.
    To say that in response to magnet kids who may get kicked out of their current schools that you are hopeful that this new system will have every school providing all the great services does not answer that parent whose child does not live in your area.
    I agree that we each must put our own kids first. but our own kids are not the only kids that need a voice and we cannot ignore a portion of our community simply because it is inconvenient or we can’t solve the problem as quickly.
    Finally, I am a graduate of this system with two kids in the system, a volunteer in the system, and an employee in an educational institution.

    • Meghan Matt

      Julie,
      Thank you for your thoughtful response. Let me first reiterate this isn’t a race thing. The census data shows at least 30% black population in that area, and with so many white kids in private schools- even when some do come back to public- it will still be MUCH more ethnically diverse than what we have now. I want more than anything for my kids to be around kids who look different than they do, who come from different places and have different experiences.
      I do fight for kids in the inner city. I have spent 8 years serving in north Baton Rouge, two years as a children’s pastor at a dream center on Winbourne. Obviously I care DEEPLY about that population. That being said, we are taking this one step at a time. This movement will bring other breakaway school districts, each one with new leadership, smaller and easier to manage systems, better schools for ALL kids. We are just the first piece in the puzzle. Research the benefits of huge systems vs. small systems in our country. Smaller is always better. And we will work with the new districts to help them break away and become the very best they can be for their areas of the community.
      This is NOT about running from problems. I taught in EBR, I am a product of EBR, I have a family member with 40 years in the system… This is just about acknowledging when other people won’t fix things you take it into your own hands and make a way. And it’s not just about my kids… I really just wanted to tell my story (though of course I care more about my kids than anyone else’s). This is about tens of thousands of kids who won’t get a quality education if this doesn’t happen. We can’t help everyone at once, but we can take it one step at a time until we get there.
      Finally, no one is exploiting me. I jumped on-board after asking a LOT of questions and getting answers. I am happy to be a poster family for this, but that’s not what I am. We are a family fighting for our kids and ALL the kids whose lives could be changed if this happens.

      Thanks again for your words and thoughts…

      • Julie

        Meghan,
        We will have to agree to disagree. I think we would both like to see the same end product…just different approaches to getting there. Best wishes to you and yours and let’s keep hope that eventually all of EBR will acheive excellence. I genuinely applaud anyone who is getting involved in any solution whether I agree with their stance or not.

  5. Meghan,
    I admire your conviction and willingness to be fully invested in this process. We all need to be thinking hard and researching well to make decisions that will best serve ALL of the children of Baton Rouge.

    Julie,
    I agree wholeheartedly with everything Meghan has written. I have had deep concerns about our students who are growing up in very difficult circumstances, and who are not living in the South East Baton Rouge area. They need all of us. Like Meghan, I look at this as the next step in meeting the educational needs of children all over the city. I am hopeful that transitioning from one large system into several smaller systems will significantly improve what we are able to do for ALL of our students.
    Here is a link that was posted through facebook on the SEBR page:
    http://www.smallerschools.org/research.php?ref=small-schools-offer-real-hope-for. This is eye-opening, especially given the background and credentials of the author of this article.

    Meghan,
    Thank you!

  6. Mary

    I have been in Baton Rouge for nearly 5 years now. I have one child in EBRSS and one graduate of EBRSS. We have lived in many states through out this Nation. I have never seen a system so racially motivatied in my life. I truly am sorry that that is the issue. I am not sure what the issues of EBRSS are, but I can say that I am NOT very pleased with it. I too am involved in school very much. My motivation is to insure my child is safe. Does she get her education, I certainly hope so. But I think it is time to not only listen to the parents perspective on this issue, but the childrens. It is hard for a child to learn in class when there are others who DO NOT want to be there and interrupt through out the class period. The schools have their hands tied on how to handle an out of control child, by the school board. I am all about children getting an education, so what do you do with the child that is out of control, some say to send him out. Well, what about his education? Does he deserve the satisfaction of causing 20 some odd students not to learn the daily lesson? These are the issues that go on daily in the schools. How does this get handled? Well, you pull your child out of that school and put them in a magnet school to get their education, what about the ones that score just under the Magnet scale. Shouldn’t they have the right to have the same scale of education that goes into the Magnet school? I do not think it is fair that I would have to put my child on a bus to bus her to the other side of town, putting her in danger, in order for her to get what she needs. Having my child closer to home helps me to not only insure less stress on a bus, but it insures that I can at any time get to her school in a short amout of time in case of an emergency. If she was bussed accross town, it would take me over an hour with triffic to get to her. I am all for the community school, smaller districts are better. Just talk to the children of the school system, because the parents are told what they want to hear, not the truth. Ask your child that is in the public schools what it is like on a daily bases, and how it is in their school. I know that some of the stories seem like they are fictional, I thought so, until I got involved and experienced it myself. I was truly shocked. We do not want to loose the excellent teachers we have because they are burned out by the politics, we want at safer, educationally motivated school system and if making it smaller is what it takes, them I am all for it. It has only gotten worse the way it is now, why not take a different path, for our children, not the convience of the parents.

  7. Here’s a supporting quote that I think you’d like:
    Mahatma Mohandas K. Gandhi – On Community Size
    “Men … should do their actual living and working in communities … small enough to permit of genuine self-government and the assumption of personal responsibilities, federated into larger units in such a way that the temptation to abuse great power should not arise. The larger (structurally) a democracy grows, the less becomes the rule of the people and the smaller is the say of individuals and localised (sic) groups in dealing with their own destinies. Moreover, love and affection, are essentially personal relationships. Consequently, it is only in small groups that Charity, in the Pauline sense of the word, can manifest itself. Needless to say, the smallness of the group, in no way guarantees the emergence of Charity. In a large undifferentiated group, the possibility does not even exist, for the simple reason that most of its members cannot, in the nature of things, have personal relations with one another.”
    This is from my website at http://www.smallerschools.org.

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