Education Reform and the Resolute Desk

Feb. 2, 2016 after my first meeting with John Bel Edwards, as governor.

As another year comes to an end, I’ve spent my time off from school reflecting on 2016, examining my successes and failures, and developing a strategy to overcome the failures in the new year. I successfully completed a personal challenge to learn 52 new songs in 2016 to add to my setlist because although education policy keeps me pretty busy, I do still perform regularly. I successfully established a media outlet to inform stakeholders about the issues regarding education, and I had the pleasure of participating in the effort to improve teacher evaluations which was a step in the right direction, although a small step.

In assessing my failures, I’ve accepted two major issues. First, I failed to rally enough support among stakeholders to reinforce the message that I deliver to elected officials and other apparent opposing forces. Not that there isn’t support. I just need to work smarter to provide an avenue for that support to be expressed.

With all of the continuous name calling and badgering on social media regarding the presidential election, I’ve tried to initiate conversations about how the two political parties could work together to improve the lives of all, instead of the current practice. In doing this, I realized my second failure. I have to take ownership of falling victim to what I have stood against all of my life…partisanship over people.

John F. Kennedy Jr. playing under the Resolute Desk while his father works.

In the Oval Office, there is a desk that every president since 1880 has been photographed behind. Most people don’t know that the desk has a name, or its history. The desk, itself, is symbolic in nature, but its name has a double entendre.

In short, an American whaling ship discovered the H.M.S. Resolute, a British Naval Ship, abandoned and adrift in the Canadian Arctic. The ship was towed back to port in the United States, and the legislature appropriated an amount of money equivalent to $1,000,000 in today’s economy to completely restore the ship to sailing condition and returned it to England as a gesture of goodwill. Queen Victoria decommissioned the ship and had two desks built from its salvaged wood. One of the desks resides in Buckingham Palace; the other, in the Oval Office. The Resolute Desk is symbolic of two separate nations that previously existed under one rule, and their willingness to be supportive of each other, steadfast and resolute in their beliefs and willingness to work together for the good of all involved.

With Rep. Brett Geymann at the State Capitol after the “Common Core Compromise” of 2015.

In the three years that I have been involved in the fight against education reform, I have developed a tremendous amount of respect for a number of people who understand the concept of finding common ground and making an effort to serve the needs of all. Among those people are former Rep. Brett Geymann, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Sen. Dan Morrish; current chairman of the Senate Education Committee. I have also learned that despite making every effort, there will still be those who will participate in discussion when left with no other option, but have no intention of finding common ground.

Before I wrap this up and reveal my resolution for 2017, I want to state my views related to education reform in an effort to provide a background for my resolution.

  • I do believe that the public education system has much room for improvement and that spending can be more focused and purposeful.
  • I do not believe that replacing the public education system with a system that essentially removes accountability to the taxpayer, and provides opportunity for profit from tax dollars that should be in the classroom, is the right approach.
  • I believe that we should focus on improving the system that serves 80%-90% of students in our nation instead of wrecking it.
  • I believe that the complete restructuring of a system to suit the needs of 15% of the students is neither smart, nor effective.
  • I do not believe that teachers are the problem, though some teachers do need to go.
  • I do not believe that enabling a principal to hire and fire on a whim is in the best interest of children.
  • I do believe that if more resources were focused on making administrators better managers of people, a lot more would be accomplished.
  • I believe that embracing responsible reform, and rejecting radical reform, our children will benefit.

These are my basic beliefs in regards to public education, and I am willing to discuss these, at length, with anyone who is interested. With that said, here is my resolution.

I resolved to be willing to discuss and acknowledge the needs of anyone willing to discuss and acknowledge my needs with the ultimate goal of finding common ground in regards to serving the needs of all students.”

Now, here is my challenge to you. If you are a “reformer,” and you are reading this, I challenge you to do the same. Why? Because the bottom line is…if you aren’t willing to do that, then you have a different agenda, and if that is the case, I will fight you to the end. Come on. Step up to the plate. It is time to end the tiring rhetoric and alliances with petty organizations that only facilitate a path to your goals to open the door to realize theirs. They do not have the same agenda.

I look forward to a productive year. If you do, too, you know where to find me. Be Resolute!

At the Governor’s Mansion for the signing of the teacher evaluation bill. Representatives from LAE, LFT, the House, the Senate, LSBA and Stand for Children.

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