Random Flotsam 2: Overwhelmed

Feb 10, 2011 by

No sooner do I get into the reasons why blogging for profit is dead or dying when one of the ones contributing to that state of affairs makes a deal with the dinosaur of the internet to keep her profit machine going on the backs of writers who are mostly unpaid.  What will this change as far as New Orleans bloggers’ issues on HuffPo go?  Not a damned thing that I can see.  Most of that POV tends to be represented by Harry Shearer and only a few other regular folks and organizations, anyhow…and my thinking tends to be if you’re gonna blog for free on a site such as HuffPo, you might as well maintain your own blog.  Increased traffic numbers can only go so far towards helping you make a living.  What tends to amaze me the most about all of this is now it’s like everybody’s just now discovering that Arianna Huffington doesn’t pay for much of the content on her site.  So glad you all woke up.

Confession: I hate the city’s NOLAReady updates, but I tend to feel they’re a necessary evil because it does give one some insight into the garbage-in, garbage-out nature of some of the missives that pass for the NOPD’s ideas about public communication.  Perhaps it’s because I also just finished the serial murders section of this novel, but the effect of all of the reports from the police on how many people they’ve caught and what their officers have encountered is overwhelming, upsetting, and ultimately sad – there are volumes going unsaid between the tales of which officers responded to what calls and what they found, what they are looking for still and who we all need to contact if we come across alleged perpetrators that fit the descriptions.  It is also not uncommon for people to only subscribe to one district’s emails only to get everything NOLAReady sends, which does not contribute to effective transparency.  Find a better way is what I say.

What could be missing? one might ask.  Well, check out the Uptown Messenger’s excellent article on Twitter friend and lovely dinner companion Liz_Money’s debacle, where a case of mistaken identity had both the criminals who invaded her home and the cops investigating the crime thinking, erroneously, that she was a felon’s fiancee.  And then there’s the attitude of the officer investigating the Maple Street Book Shop break-ins, the latest of which had a competent safecracker making off with some dough and a few valuable first editions, to boot: “A crack head is not going to steal Confederacy of Dunces.” Please tell me why I feel the joke there is gonna be on the police.

The past couple of days seem to be big ones for school reportage from The Lens.  A response to the controversial op-ed piece by C.W. Cannon on KIPP schools in New Orleans can be found at Suspect Device.  There is an exploration of the SUNO-UNO merger by Jessica Williams that is worth a look.   But the one nearest to my heart is the photoessay on the city’s ghost schools, the abandoned properties left behind in the ever changing landscape of New Orleans’ “system of schools”.

I quit taking photos of abandoned schools in large part because I discovered signs of someone squatting in one of the schools and found I couldn’t take it anymore.  The utter neglect still horrifies me and is as overwhelming as the barrage of NOLAReady emails I get.  Whatever has been said about the quality of teaching in the schools overall before the storm is mostly true, but there are still signs in these buildings left to rot that there were teachers who cared, who made the effort to prepare their classrooms, and that the staff was ready to roll for another year before a mandatory evacuation over five years ago froze those halls and rooms in time.

Other photographic documentation has tended to focus on the examples of modernism in places such as Carver High and Phillis Wheatley Elementary, focusing on the architecture and trying to appeal to everyone on that basis.  The one that keeps weighing on me the most, however, is Moton Elementary, one of the most recently built of the elementary school facilities before 8/29/2005, which didn’t flood much but was built on the former Superfund site known as the Agriculture Street landfill.

Going back there two years after my first look confirmed that the site is in even greater disarray, all the more haunting because of all the equipment, furniture, and materials left behind.

Moton front office, 2010

Inside the Moton front office, 2008

I do know that with all the numbers of school-age children increasing in this area, the neglect of these facilities on the part of whatever public school entities are operating now will constantly rear its ugly head.  My son’s own public charter building is slated to go through some serious, long-overdue renovations and additions, but the question there is, while all of that mess is going on, where will the kids go?  I don’t think the BESE, OPSD, or RSD has any clue.

Of all the afterthoughts in the changes wrought in the public schools, the ones involving school facilities will still be one of the biggest millstones around the neck of public education here.  There have been so many financial cuts to education on the state level, however, that the solutions won’t come quickly or easily.


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