Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Just Moving Money Around?

I don't know if anyone else noticed this small blurb in Monday's very thin Times-Pic metro section in the regular "Higher Education Notes" segment that begs.

Apparently, ExxonMobil has awarded a grant to the Cowen Institute to develop college prep courses at four New Orleans public schools.

Let me start out by applauding the stated commitment to high level college preparatory classes at our schools. I gleaned some more info from the Tulane press release about the program. They'll be starting AP courses, which is fabulous. Not only did AP level courses prepare me for collegiate academia, but the university credits I received for succeeding in those courses allowed me finish my senior year at Tulane as a part time student, saving my family and I thousands of dollars in tuition costs.

But wait just a minute, y'all.

Before we go ahead and canonize ExxonMobil and the Cowen Institute, there might be some lines to read between. I know, I know. Very unexpected.

From the T-P blurb:

John McDonogh High School, L.E. Rabouin Career Magnet School and O. Perry Walker Senior High School already have been selected to participate. A fourth school is expected to be picked this month.

The grant, announced Thursday, will set up an advanced-placement training and incentive program at each school to help students prepare for higher education.

This is a pilot program, which is expected to develop during the next five years.

One minor detail I noticed was that not one of these three high schools survive past Phase II of the school facilities master plan. The buildings are scheduled to be shuttered and "landbanked," with no replacement construction. O.P. Walker is listed in the master plan as closing in 2016 and John McDonough will be 86'd in 2014.

L. E. Rabouin is a Phase I closure. It will be shelved, according to the school facilities master plan, in 2012.

Thus, ExxonMobil and the Cowen Institute will spend over a million bucks implementing pilot programs that won't be given a chance to become permanent since the host schools are being written out of existence. Not only that but even if we were to be most charitable and start the five year implementation timeline at this very moment, Rabouin will be closed in year four of the grant.

What is up with that? Why are we pulling the rug out from under these critical academic efforts by shutting down these schools regardless of the success of the programs hosted within?

My calls to the Tulane PR people and to the Cowen Institute for comment and/or clarification were not returned.

P.S. This petition effort helped result in a short extension of the public comment period. We have ten more days in which to lobby OPSB and BESE. Write your school board member.


Anonymous said...

It's my understanding that the NORD plan was dependent upon corporate donations for the building of new schools. Or at least it was talked about this way before the final plan, which I admit to having not checked out in any detail. I remember hearing about vague plans for an Apple-sponsored school, a Wal-Mart school, etc. With the economic crisis, how will this be remotely possible? Will bond issues be very easy to pull off either, etc.? I'm guessing much of this plan will be either dead in the water or in need of serious tweaking, and that this will become more obvious over the next few months, if not days or weeks.
-- Ray

E said...

I hope you're right, Ray. But I see absolutely no indication that this plan is headed for the dumpster. It seems likely to be rubber stamped by the end of the month.

Anonymous said...

Even if the plan is rubber stamped by the end of the month, that still doesn't mean it can be carried out in its details. If the money turns out not to be there, it's back to the drawing board. And I don't think it's remotely safe to think that the economy will right itself quickly. It's more realistic to think that things are going to play out badly, if not be utterly disastrous. Something to watch.

E said...

I don't know.... I would have said the new school board could easily toss out the master plan when they get seated in January - but not the new school board we just elected.