Minden Press-Herald

Oct 01st

Reynolds hopes minor changes help major ones

reynoldsAfter sweeping changes were passed by the Louisiana legislature last year, District 10 Rep. Gene Reynolds hopes minor changes will help the implementation of 2012's Act 1.

"There were eight big changes last year and more changes are proposed," Reynolds said. "We have to make decisions that improve public education. We have a mutual agreement down there, even with some of the ones that voted in favor of last year's changes, that if we do not have a strong public school system, our society is going to be in trouble."

Reynolds has three suggestions to improve the Department of Education: restricting the scope of 2013's state testing results, introducing oversight to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and changing the way Independent School Districts (ISD) are formed.

"I've been in conversations with the State Department of Education, about making this year's test results null and void," Reynolds said. "My proposal is to collect the data, but the information won't be used for teacher evaluations."

Reynolds said he thinks the bill has "plenty of support" and will likely pass.

"We are not trying to eliminate teacher evaluations," Reynolds added. "It's hard to base a teacher's hiring and firing on that base."

Reynolds said COMPASS, which is now the formula used to evaluate teachers, needs modification.

"We are getting mixed reports from COMPASS results from around the state," he said. "Some schools are getting a lot of four's and some schools are getting a lot of one's on teacher evaluations. The evaluation method needs work and is changing."

Reynolds' experience as a former principal may help provide insight to how teacher evaluations should be performed.

"I could take that instrument and go to any school in the State of Louisiana and make any teacher look any way I want them to look," he said. "That's a fact, which is why that is one of the areas where we will have to work on the COMPASS evaluation over the next few years."

While legislators are monitoring areas to changes made in education last year, Reynolds thinks an additional area should be held accountable

"I'm looking for some oversight from two committees at the state level to oversee what BESE decides they are doing," Reynolds said. "There needs to be some oversight in my opinion. I'm going to try and get as much of that as we can. Everyone needs oversight and to be held accountable."

Reynolds is also asking for the decision of starting ISDs to be a local one.

"You can form an Independent School District right now," Reynolds said. "In the process of doing that, to file an approval, you need a constitutional amendment, which means it has to go before a vote over the whole state of Louisiana."

Reynolds' bill does away with the state-wide election.

"The way it is right now, if you want an ISD here in Webster Parish, people down in south Louisiana are going to vote on it," Reynolds explained. "All my bill does is put the decision to the local parish system. If my bill passes, you will never have to go to another state election for an ISD."

After watching groups in Baton Rouge attempt to form an ISD last year, Reynolds said this topic has been on his mind.

"We have opened the doors to charter schools and vouchers, we've done a lot of things, but we haven't done a lot to entice people to stay in public schools," Reynolds said. "My way of thinking is, if you do have an area that would like to have an ISD, you could really get back to a neighborhood school concept.

"It's a more localized way of schooling, which is what it was like back in the fifties and sixties," he continued. "Neighborhood schools worked then and research says they will still work."

Reynolds said he predicts a charter school will negatively impact Webster Parish.

"I do think Webster Parish will have charter schools, which would pull a lot of MFP money out of the school board's funds," he said. "The school board would have to do some consolidation. So I think we need to have a way to entice them (students) to stay in (public school)."

ISDs are public schools, which receive Minimum Foundations Program funds and are required to follow state mandated polices and procedures, such as compass evaluations, state testing and common core curriculum standards.

"By creating neighborhood schools, things could be streamlined better," Reynolds said. "You can still meet the guidelines set by the state, and do a better job of micro-managing it."

Reynolds said he is an advocate of public school, which is why he supports sticking with a long-term plan and making changes where needed as weak areas are identified.

"Everyone needs to be educated," he said. "We can't have the flight away from public education because that leads toward a lot of problems.

"I'm not trying to push the idea if an ISD on anyone," Reynolds continued. "I'm trying to make it easier if someone wants to do so."







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