Business Report Coverage of Results Release Event

Beyond Bricks EBR says survey shows desire for less emphasis on testing, greater transparency

The Baton Rouge community desires a strong school system with less emphasis on testing and stronger community relationships, according to the results of community surveying by a new grassroots organization called Beyond Bricks EBR.

Beyond Bricks EBR presented its findings, based on a series of 13 community discussions about public education in East Baton Rouge Parish, to community leaders who gathered at Albemarle Corp.’s headquarters this morning.

Albemarle CEO Luke Kissam said the efforts being made to improve local schools are critical to the state and city-parish, as a community can only thrive if its school system is strong.

“Do not mistake economic development for having great resources,” Kissam said. “If we can pull up that education—we’ve got the resources, we’ve got great people, we’ve got good weather—we’ll kill it.”

Beyond Bricks EBR was created by Anna Fogle in December and comprises parents, educators, religious leaders and business executives. The group, which has more than 25 local business partners, is working with businesses and community leaders to gather input on how to improve public schools.

In January and February, Beyond Bricks EBR hosted the 13 “Listening Sessions” around the parish, inviting community members to express their thoughts on schools. More than 550 people, many of them parents of children in the school system, attended the sessions. Attendees were broken up into small groups and asked questions by Beyond Bricks EBR volunteers.

Beyond Bricks EBR says the sessions show the community desires a clearer path to graduation, schools closer to their homes, strong leadership and greater transparency about school accountability. They also aren’t sure how the school rating system works or what it means for their children, Fogle said.

“It’s important to know that doing the dialogues is about coming to an understanding, not a debate,” Fogle said. “The community agrees that all schools should be excellent.”

Fogle also said many people perceive that some schools receive more resources than others, and not enough of the good things happening in East Baton Rouge schools are being reported by the local media.

Roy Heidelberg, assistant professor of public administration at LSU and Beyond Bricks EBR volunteer in charge of data, said scribes recorded the discussions, which Beyond Bricks EBR volunteers then analyzed to come to consensus. More than 1,000 volunteer hours went into creating the report presented this morning.

Fogle said the next step for Beyond Bricks is to conduct more discussions, increase focus on specific issues and create a plan of action. She said the goal is to obtain more input from educators, parents and community organizations and to test the validity of perceptions found in prior discussions.

—Deanna Narveson