Capitol Elementary, CSAL Middle, and Istrouma High School Win $15,000 Teacher Appreciation Contest

Baton Rouge Alliance for Students Partners with ExxonMobil Baton Rouge to Thank Teachers

(Baton Rouge, La.)– The Baton Rouge Alliance for Students, Teach 225, and ExxonMobil Baton Rouge have partnered to honor educators at three Baton Rouge schools today, distributing gift cards for each classroom educator for a total of $15,000. This effort will help provide classroom supplies for the 2022-2023 school year. Schools were chosen by community vote through an open nomination process launched during Teacher Appreciation Week.


Capitol Elementary, CSAL Charter Middle, and Istrouma High School were the top three vote-getters. Each classroom teacher in these schools will receive a $150 gift card to School Aids, a local Baton Rouge-based educator-supply store, which generously added an additional 10% to each gift card, bringing each card’s value to $165.


“We want to alleviate the stress educators experience when preparing their classrooms for the school year, so they have time to focus on what’s important: fostering a great learning environment for their students,” said Adonica Pelichet Duggan, CEO of the Baton Rouge Alliance for Students. “Teachers are the most important adults in every school building, and we’re pleased to have this opportunity to show them how much we appreciate their hard work and dedication to educating Baton Rouge’s students. We want them to leave for summer knowing they are valued.” 


“Successful careers begin with successful teachers,” said Stephanie Cargile, ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Public & Government Relations Manager. “We recognize the incredible role that teachers play in not only preparing students for the opportunities ahead, but also in shaping our community’s future.”


Ten days of online voting were open to parents, students, educators, and community members. A recognition celebration was held at each campus, during which teachers received their gift cards.

In Staffing Changes and Everything Else, the District Must Engage Communities Before Taking Action

BATON ROUGE, LA– Like so many in our community, I have watched the uproar over recent staffing changes in EBR Schools with concern. The Baton Rouge Alliance for Students is committed to funding equitable and student-based budgeting that prioritizes directing resources to address the needs of our most vulnerable students. If these changes were made to fill staffing gaps experienced by our community’s underserved students, the Alliance would applaud the efforts of the district administration. The instinct to direct resources to most in need students is right. However, the families of EBR have no insight into how the district evaluated existing school staffing, took programming requirements into consideration, or otherwise analyzed school needs before recommending adjustments. 

Often in these situations, it is not the “what” of a policy change that draws public ire but the “how.” Among many missteps, from dropping “impact notices” during teacher appreciation week to putting special school models at risk, district administrators did not effectively communicate the desired outcomes in advance of the proposed changes. Among the outstanding questions for the Superintendent are: what is the projected impact on educator retainment? How will we evaluate the success of these efforts?

While the ideal time for a public dialogue on this issue was before the announcement of changes, a conversation about the moves and a set of actions to demonstrate transparency should happen now. We suggest a public release outlining the school-by-school impact of the new staffing model that should be updated as educators accept assignments in new schools. Further, we believe that incentivized transfers are more effective in the long-term than forced transfers and suggest a study of best practices around recruiting and retaining hard-to-fill positions.

It is the responsibility of the district administration to inform the public about major challenges and develop potential solutions, but it is also the responsibility of the school board to ensure those changes are made with communities, not to them. Once again, the board’s inability to direct its team to engage truly fails to inspire public confidence. 

Families & Foodtrucks

On Saturday, April 23, 2022, the Red Stick Schools Guide will host Families and Foodtrucks, an event to engage families with the information needed in choosing quality schools for students in East Baton Rouge parish. Now more than ever, understanding school quality is vital for Baton Rouge families, the Red Stick Schools Guide will guide you through that process. 

The Red Stick Schools Guide is a project of the Baton Rouge Alliance for Students and was created to give families a single place to find information about every school in the city. Whether you’re choosing your child’s first school or selecting their next school, considering your child’s academic needs and what’s most important to your family is a significant first step in ensuring a quality education for your child. 

Register now to join us on Saturday! The first 30 RSVPs will receive free lunch at Millennial Park! For more information about understanding school quality, considering your child and family, and how to research school options, visit redsitckschools.org

Facebook Event 
EventBrite Registration

LAUNCH: BATON ROUGE YOUTH VOICE INITIATIVE

The Baton Rouge Youth Voice Initiative, a collaborative project of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, Baton Rouge Alliance for Students and Safe, Hopeful, Healthy BR, launched in February. A key component of the Initiative, the Truth Booth, can be found popping up in locations across the parish. 

The Initiative seeks to identify student perspectives on areas of need in Baton Rouge, elevate student voice in K12 education policy, and develop a pipeline for student engagement at all levels of EBR government systems.

The interactive Truth Booth interactive experience allows Baton Rouge students to lend their voices, be heard, and share their perspectives on the improvements they would like to see in their schools and communities. 

The Truth Booth allows students to tell their stories and engage in meaningful dialogue with local decision-makers through a digital experience. 

Baton Rouge Alliance for Students and Mayor Broome Announce Baton Rouge Youth Voice Initiative

For media inquiries:
Liz Smith 
Chief Strategy Officer
liz@brallianceaction.org
Mobile: 225-436-2696

Baton Rouge Alliance for Students and Mayor Broome Announce Baton Rouge Youth Voice Initiative 

Baton Rouge, La. — February 17, 2022 —Baton Rouge Alliance for Students,  announced a collaboration between the Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council’s (MYAC), and Safe, Hopeful Healthy BR to form the Baton Rouge Youth Voice Initiative. 

The Baton Rouge Youth Voice Initiative seeks to identify the highest areas of need for students within the community; elevate the voice of students in K-12 education policy; and develop a pipeline for engagement at all levels within the City-Parish government and local government agencies. 

“This collaboration is a major stepping stone in elevating and empowering youth in our community – The Youth Voice Initiative will allow our students to share their stories, their needs, and goals, allowing them to advocate for themselves and their peers,” said Mayor Broome. “Our students are in our schools everyday, and they can provide valuable insight on what we as leaders can do to strengthen their futures.”

The Baton Rouge Alliance for Students will engage consultants guided by national best practices to conduct a comprehensive listening series resulting in the production of a student-driven report on education in East Baton Rouge Parish. 

“In creating a future for EBR’s youth in which they achieve the lives they deserve and desire, amplifying their experiences must be at the forefront of system-design, ” said Adonica Pelichet Duggan, CEO of Baton Rouge Alliance for Students. “We believe an excellent education is every child’s birthright, and that understanding the experience of young people is a key way to assess how our community is faring in delivering that birthright.”

This partnership will engage students from the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council as social media ambassadors, focus group participants and youth liaisons. Students will participate in a listening series, conduct peer interviews and take part in focus groups. The project management team will gather survey data and produce a report as well as capture and document the process through a series of collateral materials including but not limited to video stories, podcast appearances, earned-media and social media campaigns.

All East Baton Rouge Parish students are encouraged to participate in the Youth Voice Initiative. For more information about The Baton Rouge Youth Voice Initiative or to take the survey online, parents and students can visit www.batonrougestudents.org

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INTRODUCING OUR NEWEST TEAM MEMBERS, LAUREN-BRIANNA FIELDS AND KOREY RYDER! 

Lauren-Brianna Fields joins our team as our Communications Director. Lauren was formerly a communication and digital media consultant, working for the Mayor’s Healthy City Initiative, HealthyBR, where she saw HealthyBR through the communications and messaging around COVID response. Lauren has a background in marketing, events, and business. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from LSU in 2011 and spent time living in Washington DC and New York before returning home to Louisiana in 2017.

Korey Ryder joins the Alliance as our Political Director. Korey and his partner have lived in Houston for three years and are excited about returning to Baton Rouge. Korey has been working in politics and campaigns since 2014, having started as a legislative aide for the Jefferson Parish Legislative Delegation while earning his political science degree. His most recent work has been with The Political Firm, managing and organizing campaigns for political offices ranging from Mayor to U.S. Congress.

Baton Rouge should set standard for openness in spending new federal dollars

The School Board should take the lead in implementing a system publicly communicating district expenditures similar to one recently proposed by Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge. HB38 would have required districts to participate in Louisiana’s Open Checkbook, a financial data transparency system. It’s a system much like Open Checkbook BR, launched in 2018. Extending this kind of budgetary transparency to the school system should be a no-brainer.

The East Baton Rouge district is starting to spend hundreds of millions of federal dollars for learning loss and COVID-related spending. It also just approved a new comprehensive strategic plan, which should guide spending of both these federal dollars and the district’s own significant annual budget. Increasing transparency around whether the district’s funds are aligned to priorities would be a welcome step for a new superintendent who has vowed to take the district in a positive direction.

Data transparency isn’t new here. Open Data BR was approved by resolution of the Metro Council in 2017. Baton Rouge has been recognized nationally on several occasions for the level of transparency of our local government data. Now is an excellent time for the EBR school district to join the metro council and Mayor’s office.

When the governor vetoed HB38, he wrote that local districts do not have the resources or technology to comply with its requirements. Costs were pegged at $15,000 for set up and $25,500 annually, which stands to impact Louisiana’s smaller school systems. But in EBR, where the annual budget is approximately $450 million and the 3-year federal COVID-19 funding is another approximately $250 million, the benefits outweigh the cost.

We believe that parents, families and taxpayers deserve a chance to fully see how the district spends our students’ education funding.

ADONICA PELICHET DUGGAN

CEO, Baton Rouge Alliance for Students

Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge should embrace nationally competitive charter schools

In June, the School Board turned down an opportunity to offer 4,400 students access to new nationally competitive schools in Baton Rouge. We’ve seen other parish officials embrace the arrival of Amazon, but the board did not roll out a similar welcome mat for these schools. Rather than using its authorization power for students, the board chose to limit competition in favor of its own planning.

Rather than focusing on the great school options before them, the board alluded to plans for future district-run schools meant to fill existing quality gaps and bemoaned the financial impact of families choosing charter schools. Board members seemed to be saying, “Take your great schools elsewhere, we don’t need them.” This prioritization of systems over students is a slippery slope.

With 11,000 students in EBR’s D- and F-rated schools, Baton Rouge is not in a position to turn down successful schools. This is despite decades of district improvement plans. The choices many EBR parents make about education demonstrate their skepticism of the district’s ability to provide a pathway to their children’s successful futures.

The board narrowly approved one smaller-than-proposed school and nearly unanimously rejected another, denying Discovery Schools the opportunity to serve Baton Rouge. The school’s success addressing the needs of diverse learners, demonstrated by its overwhelming popularity with families in Jefferson Parish, makes it an excellent option for Baton Rouge.

The role of the system is to provide students with a high-quality education. East Baton Rouge schools cannot yet offer a high-quality school option to every student. We join the school board members in their hope that the district’s comprehensive plan will yield dramatically improved results for students. But we do not believe turning down high-quality options should be part of their strategy.

ADONICA PELICHET DUGGAN

Baton Rouge Alliance for Students

Baton Rouge is not in a position to be turning down successful schools

At their most recent meeting, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board had the opportunity to offer more than 6,000 students access to schools that are outperforming the state and even the nation on many education measures. Instead of rolling out the welcome mat for these schools, the way we see parish officials embracing the arrival of Amazon, the board’s conversation steered away from school quality to center instead on the district’s plans to meet the needs of families and the financial impact of charter schools on the system. Board members seemed to be saying “Take your great schools elsewhere, we don’t need them in Baton Rouge.” This predictable prioritization of systems over students is a dangerously slippery slope. Baton Rouge is not in a position to be turning down successful schools. At last count there were 11,000 students in EBR’s schools waiting for the district to implement plans for improvement.  Do parents across our community believe that this school system is already adequately providing a pathway to the future they want for their children?

The board ended up narrowly approving one great school and nearly unanimously rejecting another.  Denying Discovery Schools the opportunity to expand to Baton Rouge and serve the students and families of this community does not improve education in Baton Rouge. In Jefferson Parish, this school has more than 1,000 students on their waiting list. Itoutperforms 81 percent of Louisiana schools in serving students with special needs, 70 percent of Louisiana schools serving Black students and 60 percent of those serving English Language Learners. Its success addressing the needs of diverse learners would make them an excellent option forBaton Rouge students.

The role of the system is to serve students and families by providing a high quality education. Our school board and the district administration cannot yet offer the same level of quality as these exceptional schools to all the students that seek it. In this case, rather than using their power of authorization to expand access to great schools, the board sought to limit competition in favor of their own planning. 

The school board members who voted against these schools stated that they anticipated increases in student achievement driven by their coming strategic plan’s comprehensive strategy for school improvement. We, too, hope the district’s comprehensive plan will yield dramatically improved results for students. We also believe these schools should be one prong of such an improvement strategy. We look forward to the implementation of Superintendent Narcisse’s plan for improving the quality of education directly provided by the district, but standing in the way of opportunities for families should not be a part of the strategy.

Adonica Pelichet Duggan
CEO

There is still much work to be done to expand opportunities for the Baton Rouge students most in need

What has been publicly released about the district strategic planning process gives me a great deal of hope about the path to improving EBR Schools. Despite these positive signals, the nearly 15,000 students who remain in underperforming schools necessitate that the EBR school board urgently take advantage of every available opportunity to increase access to excellent schools. The district must respond to the positive trend of students moving from lower to higher quality schools by creating more of them.

Later this month, the EBR School Board will have the opportunity to approve applications for two successful non-profit schools that are seeking the chance to serve Baton Rouge students. The school board can leverage this opportunity to further expand the array of great schools now serving the diverse needs and priorities of Baton Rouge families, as authorizing high-quality non-profit schools is a critical prong of a comprehensive strategy to better deliver for Baton Rouge students. But there is no doubt that, as with all charter approvals, these too will meet with predictable opposition from those fixated on systems over students.  Parents and families deserve to have access to schools that best address their needs, and they don’t care who runs them. 

Both Great Hearts and Discovery Schools have demonstrated strong promise to serve the needs of Baton Rouge students. The success of Great Hearts students is hard to deny. The class of 2020 had an average ACT score of 28 and 97 percent of the graduates are college bound. Discovery Schools operates a highly sought-after K-12 health sciences school in Jefferson Parish in partnership with the Ochsner Health System. This school outperforms 77% of all Louisiana schools in serving economically-disadvantaged students. This is especially critical in Baton Rouge where nearly 80 percent of students are in this demographic. Discovery is seeking to expand their work into Baton Rouge and will leverage newly-built partnerships with the Baton Rouge Health District for students here in the capital city.

Detractors are pushing a false narrative that approving these schools is a complicated choice and are relying on excuses and technicalities. The reality is there’s a simple question that must be asked: Does the board believe the applicants’ successful records of serving students will expand opportunities for educational excellence in Baton Rouge? 

The opportunity gap for Baton Rouge students remains very real. Our city’s most in-demand schools continue to have waiting lists of more than 100 students each year. It is the board’s responsibility to ensure every Baton Rouge family has the ability to access a high-quality education in the school of their choice, and until this is the case, the board must continue to expand high-quality options.

Adonica Pelichet Duggan
CEO