Robin Jarvis, the Superintendent of the Recovery School District, is reportedly thinking about resigning. I have mixed feelings about this. Many of her actions as superintendent upset me, but to replace her might be too daunting a task, especially at this crucial stage of rebuilding. Who on earth would want her job? I think originally the idea was that the shining star Dr. Jarvis would take over as State Superintendent when Cecil Picard retired. But now Dr. Jarvis has made quite a few enemies, and politically she appears to be "damaged goods."
As a member of the group from the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization who tried and failed to charter Dibert Elementary in the Summer and Fall of 2006, and as the current president of Mid-City Charter Schools, a new non-profit trying to charter a school in our neighborhood, I had dealings with Robin Jarvis directly on a few occasions. What I remember most is her telling the City Council that she had repeatedly offered to help MCNO and work with MCNO in the charter process as the state had previously mandated. However, the opposite was true. Our community has repeatedly said that quality education, especially public education, will be key to our neighborhood's recovery. We have tried hard to have a voice in what schools open and how they will be managed. Thus far, we have been ignored. It took a very long time for the Recovery School District to even have an office in New Orleans. Instead they stayed in their beautiful Claiborne Building in Baton Rouge. I do believe that Robin Jarvis cares a great deal about education, and she definitely worked hard. Plus, the Recovery School District remains under-staffed, under-funded, and is in many ways it appears to be a straw man, a group set up to take the blame away from the state elected BESE Board. But I believe that it is Dr. Jarvis's nature to put a positive spin on just about anything. Her grilling burgers as a "can do" attitude to confront frozen food still seems like putting lipstick on a pig. And Robin Jarvis seems to tell people, especially her superiors, exactly what she thinks they want to hear. I would prefer a superintendent who is brutally honest and candidly frank. I want a leader who helps communities have a say when they try to improve our pathetic public education system. I want a leader who gets angry when 300 kids can't get into a public school, instead of one who smiles.
Mid-City Charter Schools, with the help of Education Design Management, put together an excellent application to charter a school. I worked very hard on this with many of my neighbors and colleagues. We had a great interview with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the group hired by BESE to review the applications. We are hopeful that this time we'll get a school in our neighborhood that we'll charter for five years. There are many committed and qualified people in my Mid-City neighborhood who are up for this challenge. We are supposed to hear back on February 13th about their decision. Running a school won't be easy, but it will be important. I am trying to make a New New Orleans, where children can benefit, as I did, from a great education in public schools.
Later note: Jarvis DeBerry opines on Robin Jarvis in the February 9 T-P.