Sept. 15, 2014 08:42 PM

In this letter to the editor, LaPESC chairman Stephen Bartley looks to the Nov. 4 elections as Lafayette's best chance to rally around a 'Common Vision' for our public education system.


LaPESC chairman Stephen Bartley

The Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council (LaPESC) is a coalition of independent education stakeholder groups with a common commitment to improve overall academic achievement, to eliminate the achievement gap and to increase the high school graduation rates of all students.

Many of LaPESC's current members have been working hand-in-hand since LaPESC was founded in 2009. Our shared vision is to ensure a world-class education for every student in every public school with sufficient resources to unlock their transformative abilities so that 100 percent of our students reach their full potential and graduate from high school prepared to succeed.

With the school board's Nov. 4 elections less than 50 days away, we have the opportunity to rally the community around  Common Vision for increasing student achievement and preparedness in our schools. When you take a comparative look at high-performing school districts, or successful turnaround and reform efforts, two key elements that are consistent is the need for strong community support and leadership united behind a Common Vision.

In order to have a successful school system, decision makers can and should engage in healthy debates about how to attain their goals, but they need to agree on the big-stuff, about core beliefs and commitments. They have to broadly share the same set of goals. Without a common direction, any system will struggle to become highly-effective because its leaders are divided on fundamentals. The goal of our members in creating a common vision was to construct a set of shared principles and priorities. Rather than focusing attention on the small number of issues that are sometimes divisive, we wanted to focus on areas of consensus to create a common vision that is grounded in community input and published research. We adopted a three step approach to creating this vision - Listen, Learn, and Action:

First, we listened to and engaged the community. We decided the best way to gather community feedback was to listen through round-table discussions on public education in Lafayette Parish.

Secondly, we became informed about what works by relying on strong research to inform and sharpen the community consensus. We looked at published research from academic journals, academic research centers, education policy institutes, and think-tanks. We always strived to capture a diversity of opinion.

Thirdly, we took action by taking the community feedback and research and transforming it into actionable items. The Common Vision provides a set of principles and priorities focused on the primary objective of increasing student achievement and preparedness.

Each of the LaPESC member organizations have plans advance this vision in different ways, but if there is one common denominator it is putting students first. We believe a Common Vision for Our Future is an important step to achieving academic improvement for all children in Lafayette Parish, and we encourage the community to visit for more information and to sign on to support the Vision.

Stephen Bartley is chairman for LaPESC.


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