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New superintendent of Special School District criticized for reorganizing Louisiana School for the Deaf

4 years 1 week 1 day ago Monday, February 17 2020 Feb 17, 2020 February 17, 2020 8:03 AM February 17, 2020 in News
Source: The Advocate
Photo: District Administration

BATON ROUGE - At the request of new superintendent, Ernest Garrett III, The Louisiana School for the Deaf (LSD) is being reorganized.

The Advocate reports that after struggling with allegations of sexual misconduct and troubled academics some feel the changes to LSD are a long time coming, and Garrett isn't wasting any time implementing them.

The 38-year-old superintendent says he sees the school's potential, and is eager to see it improved.

He spoke about the rumors he's heard about LSD, beginning with parents saying they've been ignored and lied to and some claiming that certain LSD employees are only concerned with 'drawing a paycheck.'

Unfortunately, the school's problems don't end there. 

In 2008, state leaders decided to temporarily close LSD to address issues that impacted the student safety. 

That same year, The Advocate reported that over a five-year period seven adults, including three teachers, were accused of improper sexual conduct with students. 

And in 1999, a four-part series by WBRZ-TV uncovered "numerous and unabated" sexual incidents among students at the school, including rapes and molestations.

"We have to change the culture," Garrett said in an interview. "In my opinion, the culture is not conducive to prioritizing achievement for students." 

In harmony with his words, Garrett is taking extensive measures to modify critical aspects of the school. 

As part of a first step, Garrett has been assembling his own team, including finding directors for the school for the Deaf and Visually Impaired. 

But not everyone is happy with this approach.

Critics say Garrett is dismissing experienced leaders and replacing them with people who are either unfamiliar to the community or lack the experience of their predecessors.      

But Garrett isn't backing down. 

"I didn't come here to be popular," Garrett said. "We have work to do, serious business."

The former CEO of the Deaf Empowerment Awareness Foundation Inc in St. Louis began leading LSD in September of 2019 and intends to improve the schools's F-rating as soon as possible. 

One of his first intentions is to find a new director for The School for the Deaf, which has a total of 137 students. 

The School for the Visually Impaired, also under Garrett's leadership, has 87 students and did not get a grade last year because it didn't have enough students. 

Both are boarding schools with a combined total of 276 employees and annual operating budgets of $26 million.

Garrett hired Dr. Janet Amelin Harris, former director of human resources for the EBRP School System, as Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Donald Snider as Director of Strategic Initiatives Policy and Development, Joe Amacker, executive director of information technology and educational technology, Marie Smith, executive director of special school programs, and Donica Jones as special assistant to the superintendent. 

"You can have all the best ideas on what it takes to move from potential to execution," Garrett said. "But if you don't have the right people ... you are just not going to achieve that."

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