Superintendent Skinner addresses letter

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By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

Supt. of Schools Dale Skinner said in an interview this week that he is hoping someone will take responsibility for a letter circulated by the Natchitoches Voters and Civic League opposing the bond issued passed at the end of April to improve City schools. He’s still concerned about remarks in the letter that he says are untrue. “John Winston signed the letter that was sent to over 8,000 voters, according to what I have been told,” Skinner said. “The letter, dated April 5, stated the Voters and Civic League voted unanimously to oppose the tax because of my unacceptable attitude and my disrespect to school personnel and other adults. I find this amusing because no one has left my office upset or mad this year. I would like for anyone who has come to my office and acted normal, to come and tell me when I was rude or disrespectful. If you came in loud or cursing, then you were told to leave and I won’t apologize for that.”

Concerned about the letter that opposed the bond issue before the election, Skinner said he was hopeful that a luncheon meeting he had with Winston and Robert Jackson Wednesday, April 25 would address their concerns. He told them of plans to solve problems with the failing schools by implementing grade banding and other positive action. According to Skinner, Winston said he had made a mistake about criticism of Skinner. He said, “I should have checked with you first,” Winston said, according to Skinner.

He said that during the luncheon, Winston said he only presided over the league meeting when the letter was approved but was not responsible for the letter. “I felt good after John said he made a mistake. I felt sure he and Robert Jackson would do something to let the people they sent letters to, know the information they sent out was not true.” Skinner said he asked Winston to participate in a ROBO telephone call on Friday before the election to tell the voters he had made a mistake but he didn’t do so.

“Knowing Marvin Blake, a teacher in our system, was a member of the Voters and Civic League, I decided to ask him how he could be part of sending something to many, many voters that was not true. He responded he was not responsible for the letter and that John Winston wrote it. My question is, who will take responsibility for writing the letter with the untruths.” Skinner said that the letter also stated the school board budget was in deficit, which is untrue. The board adopted a balanced budget earlier this year. He answers other criticism in the letter about D and F schools that he says are being addressed with the banding of grades that will begin in the fall. “We are serious and we have made changes but the schools have not improved like we hoped for. We are working on improving all schools and feel that banding of some grades will solve many of our problems.” Skinner said that he would rather focus on accomplishments and growth the parish schools have made over the last three years.

Among those are, out of 75 districts, only eight grew more than Natchitoches Parish. Out of 69 school districts, only eight grew in graduation rate more than Natchitoches Parish. Natchitoches Parish was sixth in the state for increasing opportunities for students with disabilities. And Natchitoches Parish was seventh in the state for increasing opportunities for African American students. We grew 12.1 points. During the 2015-2016 school year, Natchitoches Parish was among the Top 10 districts in the state for ACT gains; in the last two years our graduation rate improved 14 points. When the 2015-2016 scores for the state were released, we improved from a “C” to a “B” school district.

Our district performance score was is 88.8, two points higher than the state average of 86.8.