Monday, June 16, 2008

"Too Conventional"

In today's Times Picayune, Darran Simon wrote a piece on the status of the RSD's "Quick Start" construction. In it, there is more information about the oft-delayed release of the 10 year facilities master plan that will ultimately govern the long-term capacity of the Orleans Parish public school systems.

While the pending public school construction marks progress, the larger master plan is unfinished and won't be unveiled until August. It will lay out the future of the city's nearly 130 public school campuses, dozens of which probably will not be needed because of a shrunken post-Katrina population.

State education Superintendent Paul Pastorek saw a May draft of the master plan and sent planners back to the drawing board. Pastorek said the draft was "too conventional" and didn't propose locating enough schools on large new campuses or near universities, art institutions, major industries and other community assets.

"We're not going to produce it until it's in the best shape that I think it can be in," he said last week.

Pastorek said he would update the community on the blueprint at a district status meeting tonight at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church.

Sources with knowledge of the draft master plan confirmed that it focused heavily on renovating existing buildings and confining new construction to existing, mostly small campuses rather than developing larger campuses or putting schools close to libraries, universities, health centers and other resources.

Many New Orleans campuses are small, making it hard to expand, and some schools on large pieces of land, such as Gregory Elementary, are in areas prone to frequent flooding.

This is very interesting. Paul Pastorek saw a draft in May and, just weeks before its intended release, sent it back for major reworking.

Tonight, Paul Pastorek and Paul Vallas will be answering questions at a public meeting tonight at 6pm at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, 2515 Franklin Ave. I have to be at work and can't make it.

I wish I could go, I have a lot of questions.

Is Pastorek rejecting the work of his own director of planning, Constance Caruso, or the work of the firms she hired?

Does Pastorek's insistence on new construction over the renovation of existing structures reflect the best use of limited resources? Was the draft that Mr. Pastorek rejected in May the first draft he had seen? If so, why wasn't he more involved? If not, how was the May draft different from previous drafts he had seen? Why were some of the problems in the May draft not identified and addressed sooner?

Is Mr. Pastorek's determination that the May draft of the facilities master plan was "too conventional" his own personal view or does it reflect the opinion of the experts hired to do the planning?

If it is Pastorek's own view that the plan is "too conventional," what qualifies him to make such a determination?

If this opinion comes from experts, did Pastorek seek an independent review or did the hired planners go over the head of Constance Caruso to complain about her leadership of the project?

Again, you can ask these questions to Mr. Pastorek directly tonight at 6 PM at 2515 Franklin Ave. I'll be at work so I can't make it myself.

But someone should go and ask. Will you?

For me?

For the children?

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