Longtime educator reflects on works and changes

February 17 at 8:00 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Longtime educator reflects on works and changes
As a longtime educator in the St. Charles Parish School system and school board member, John L. Smith remains a staunch supporter of public education.

“My concern is that I don’t think that the public really understands what is at stake here,” Smith said of public education. “When you talk about charter schools, I don’t think they really fully understand what is happening here.”

But Smith is staying firm in what he considers important in education.

“We pride ourselves in having an excellent school system,” he said. “And we do that by attending to those things that are needed in order to make schools good.”

It’s a strategy that he suggests be employed nationwide, particularly as he sees change coming that jeopardizes the very concept of public education.

As an educator, he is passionate about keeping education public. As an African-American, he also knows challenges and how he work through them.

Smith started at Boutte Elementary and went on to J.B.Martin Jr. High and was named assistant principal. He later went to old Destrehan High School, also as a assistant principal. He began a doctoral program at LSU, but took a job opportunity in New Orleans before finishing it.

He went on to become deputy superintendent of the New Orleans Public School System.

By 1996, Smith retired with more than three decades of education experience.

Several years later, he was elected to serve on the St. Charles Parish School Board and this is where he became intricately focused on the political issues of education.

When he was re-elected to his second term as  president of the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA), Smith explained he ran again because it was extremely important times for public education in Louisiana and across the nation. He spoke candidly about a well financed movement by corporations, profit-driven coalitions and political allies that sought to privatize public education at the that time.

Smith emphasized then and now that it was imperative to continue advocating for public education, as well as LSBA issues and objectives.

For the long serving school board member, Smith’s outlook for public education continues to call for a national effort to ensure its’ continued existence.

In 2014, Smith cited Louisiana’s Public School Choice Act passed under former Gov. Bobby Jindal.

“I guess that’s where my problem is ... the way charter schools were originally ... to give school boards across the country an opportunity to partner with independent providers” to provide specialized opportunities, he said.

But Smith observed otherwise.

“It appeared that our governor’s intent was to replace public education with charter education,” he said.

This longtime educator remains a staunch supporter of public education, challenging Jindal’s vouchers.

“When you’ve got a snake in that role, the snake in that person is going to come out,” he said.

View other articles written Anna Thibodeaux

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