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.