On November 18th, over 60% of New Orleans’ principals heard personal remarks from Congressman Cedric Richmond and engaged in discussion with Louisiana Superintendent Cade Brumley. New Schools for New Orleans’ CEO, Patrick Dobard, moderated the event. He guided conversation with Superintendent Brumley around two central questions: What does school accountability look like in a pandemic? What is next for education in our state?
This virtual event was the second meeting of New Schools for New Orleans’ Principal Collaborative, a program designed to help our city’s principals grow, collaborate, and feel less alone in their difficult roles. It was a direct response to the feedback from our city’s school leaders that they felt siloed, and that they wanted to work together on behalf of children.
This event was a “fireside chat,” an informal conversation with key leaders in our community. Over sixty principals logged on for the event.
|Congressman Richmond launched the meeting by sharing his deep appreciation for our city’s public schools. His mother taught special education in the system, and he attended four New Orleans Public Schools–Mildred Osborne School, Edward Livingston Middle School, John F. Kennedy High School, and Benjamin Franklin High School.|
He shouted out one of his former classmates, Robert Bell, who was on the call and is the current principal of Lake Forest Elementary Charter School.
Richmond went on to share his belief in the power of strong academics and athletics. He also spoke of the importance of acknowledging students’ trauma and understanding what stresses they may be facing outside of school.
Patrick thanked the Congressman, then gave a brief introduction to Superintendent Brumley.
Superintendent Brumley shared that he wanted to be a principal since he was in first grade. He served as one at Converse High School in Converse, Louisiana.
|“It’s such an awesome opportunity and awesome responsibility,” he said of the role.
He also acknowledged the pain and intensity of leading a school in this moment.
“Like each of you on the call, I’m trying to work hard to take care of people, work with people, and see the light at the end of the tunnel–to recognize we will reach ‘post pandemic.’”
He reflected that, when it came to accountability, “we have to look at this in two ways–pandemic accountability and post-pandemic accountability and what the future could look like.”
Then, he shared updates around several temporary changes (for this year only) that are or will be in place after state board approval. The changes address specific accountability and assessment issues resulting from the pandemic. They are:
Brumley shared that he and the Louisiana Department of Education team will be looking out for guidance from the Biden Administration’s new Secretary of Education as the year proceeds, and based on that guidance, may develop additional or different changes for this year’s tests and accountability.
In response to a principal’s question about post-pandemic accountability changes, Brumley discussed the possibility of developing creative, comprehensive ways to understand kindergarten through second graders’ progress, which is currently not measured in a standardized way, reconsidering how growth is weighted in accountability, and developing additional diploma pathways for high school students.
Despite the challenges and uncertainties, he was hopeful.
“I’ve been so inspired by the teachers and leaders working their way through this for kids. I work long hours, you work long hours, and we are all doing it because we feel a moral and educative responsibility to do what we do, and we will continue to do that.”
Next, principals met for a breakout room discussion to reflect, share ideas, and connect. When they came back together, Kelly Batiste of Fannie C. Williams Charter School, took the time to wrap up.
|“I do appreciate NSNO and the Collaborative for allowing us a direct line to people who can make a decision on some of the things we’re facing day to day. Congressman Richmond talked about thinking out of the box and really being creative in this new way of doing things…Dr. Brumley seems like he’s really interested to hear from us and so I think it’s important that we continue to have these conversations, be clear about what is important to us, because we know our “why”…I think it’s important that we continue to push the policymakers…by continuing to be in touch with them about what we know is best for our kids.”|
Patrick closed with a call to action.
|“There’s strength in numbers, and there’s strength in us being a collective,” he said. “It’s one thing for me to go to Baton Rouge…it’s another thing for eighty of us to be sitting in there…for eighty of us to say, we need these [instructional] minutes to be rethought, we need funding to be rethought.”|
The conversation was powerful, but one meeting is, of course, insufficient to cover the enormous, important topics at hand. Luckily, the discussion will not end with that session.
After the event, one principal reflected on the need for continued collaboration:
They were not the only one that felt this way. In a post-event survey, 100% of principals that responded said they would want another “Fireside Chat” event. Each meeting, therefore, is a catalyst. Our school leaders learned and got some important answers, but they also came up with new questions. Now, the Principal Collaborative will help to make sure they do not ask those questions or face these challenges alone.