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Stolen Property

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The laptop computers we purchased for the teachers were scheduled for delivery today. They have a fellow teacher to thank for planting the idea with the Board. Like so many of our faculty members, she was teaching in another state last year. When she returned to the city, she shared her experiences and gave us some benchmarks from the school district that she left behind. One of her first questions was, “Are we going to get laptops?” I responded, “Of course,” although we had not budgeted for that specific item, just technology in general. Hopefully, we can get the Help Desk at the central office to set up their email accounts soon.

When we took possession of the school, although the building was furnished, we did not get an inventory of books, equipment, or materials. After several requests to the central office for information, it was determined that there were no lists for this school because it was stocked with items from the warehouse. Nothing had been ordered specifically for McDonogh 42 when it was an RSD-operated school. It had been opened in a hurry to serve wait-listed students.

I have several friends who are working in the RSD schools and they offered to help us. When I checked their inventories and reviewed what we had in our building, some things were missing. We had no televisions, no DVD players, no language centers or tape recorders. We didn’t have globes and only a few maps. We did have overhead projectors for every class. Some classes had chalkboards; some had cork bulletin boards; some had dry erase boards. One or two classes had all three. There were no Promethean Boards on back-order for us. We’ll need to buy those.

A week before Christmas, some the equipment that we ordered began to arrive. We received ten 27-inch television/DVD combinations. The carts came the next day. The principal carefully locked the TVs in a closet on the second floor. When we returned from the two-week break, four of the TVs---still in the boxes—were missing. The lock had been ripped from the door. The police said there was no sign of a break-in from the outside of the building. The three computers from a first floor kindergarten class were also missing.

It did not help to hear that at least two other schools experienced the same type of loss during the holiday break. One charter school reported $15,000 in missing equipment! We were already in the process of making our building more secure by installing new locks on all of the doors. We are considering installing cameras in the corridors. There was a meeting today with the security company that monitors the buildings; the price tag may be a high one.

Creating a safe and secure school is an expensive project. We even paid extra to have the teachers’ laptops installed with a theft protection service that tracks, locates and recovers lost computers, in case they get stolen. The principal is conducting a comprehensive fixed assets inventory. I don’t know how many computers we have but it is at least 100. At this rate, we’ll spend more money this year for lock-down devices than we will spend for instructional software.

Someone told me they couldn’t believe that people would steal from the children. We are in desperate times. Very little surprises me anymore.

5 Comments

Congratulations! You just advertised to all of the crooks out there that you have new laptops in an unsecure building with no cameras. And as a bonus, you let them know about your 100 computers and 6 remaining tv/dvd players. Yes, these are desperate times indeed. In post-Katrina New Orleans, some criminals would steal from their OWN children. Now they know where to go....thanks to you.

I don't worry too much about the crooks who read this blog. The theft occurred two weeks ago. We've increased security and finished installing the classroom locks since then. Anyone who tries to steal equipment from us now will be in for several surprises. I'd share what they are, but I don't want the crooks to know all of our secrets.

There are lots of topics to write about; I take it you didn't like this one. However, I agreed to write about the highs and lows of starting a charter school. This was one of those "lows."

While I can't control who reads the entries (or who comments on them), I have an audience in mind. I hope other school leaders will learn from our loss and not have the same bad experience or worse. I'm also hoping that there are readers out there who can share their mistakes with me so we can avoid them. I try to pay it forward.

The point of the blog entry was to address the unanticipated need to pay money to prevent losing what we buy. Pre-Katrina, none of our schools had 24-hour security guards and few had cameras. Motion detectors were all we had. But every computer had a lock-down device. We didn't buy the 100 desktop computers, but we do need to buy security cables for them. These extra security measures are post-Katrina necessities. Anyone who opens a school here needs to consider that in the budgets.

We are learning from our mistakes. The laptops will be distributed to the teachers as soon as they arrive. They were scheduled for delivery and distribution yesterday, but it did not happen. They won't be stored in the building. I doubt that our teachers will have any trouble holding on to their laptops. I think they will be very diligent with the equipment that they waited a whole semester to receive. But just in case the criminals are waiting for some unsuspecting teacher to turn her back on the new laptop, we've installed tracking devices on them. Any potential thief, beware.

We are hot on the trail of the thieves. People are outraged at the theft and witnesses have come forward with surprising information for the police. That is a rarity in our city. I know you think I've already given out too much information, so I won't say any more. But, I'll let you know, if we catch the crooks.

It sounds like the theft may have been an inside job. I recall that several years ago custodial workers were found to be responsible for removing equipment from New Orleans Public Schools. I believe that one actually had a television in his home with the school's name engraved in it. How sad! It is unconscionable to steal from children. Also, those tracking devices can be a deterrent, especially if you advertise THAT. Good Luck and Best Wishes.

I was the Mathematics teacher for the 8th grade students. My name is Mr. Peaden.

My writing here will not be very scholarly because I am not trying to be scholarly, I am only trying to put down some of my ideas. And besides I am essentially a Math and technical person.

Before this school year started, I was asked to consult with the teachers of McDonogh #42 school on how to effectively bring Mathematics into all of the classes. I was very busy with my businesses that my wife, my son and I run. I did however agree to make myself available to provide consulting services to the school and to the teachers.

I met with many of the teachers about a week before school started. I asked what kind of help each teacher needed in the area of Mathematics. I started a folder on each teacher so that I would be most efficient in providing the services needed to each teacher. I agreed to make myself available to each teacher in the classroom to help bring Mathematics to life for the students. I also agreed to do searches to find just the lessons a teacher might need to teach a certain subject in Mathematics. I got a very positive reaction from each teacher about them getting this kind of help.

Two days before school was to begin, the principal told me that there were no 8th grade teachers to start the school year. She asked if I would please take the job of teaching these students. This was not what I had in mind when I agreed to consult. I knew that I could help many students if I were allowed to consult all over the school. I had plans to not only directly help the teachers, but I planned to tutor both top and bottom performing students. My plan was to help the teachers to teach the bulk of the students in the middle, I would bring up the bottom students to catch up to the middle, and I would bring the top performers to even higher levels. The former principal and I talked at length about my plan to help raise the performance and thus the scores of the entire school in the area of Mathematics.

I reluctantly agreed to take the 8th grade class. Reluctant because I knew that I could reach more if I had been allowed to consult.

My wife and I worked very hard to get a classroom ready for me to teach. My wife is much better than I am on decorating. We found that the classroom we had completely decorated did not have a working A/C unit and so we started over in another classroom.

School started and within a few of days, I had about 34 students. The charter calls for each classroom to have no more than 20 students. The principal could rely on me to take whatever needed to be taken because I am that kind of person and because I am her brother-in-law. A brother-in-law who greatly respects what she had accomplished over the years in teaching students. I also have been helped by her during the years I myself taught. She has given me much excellent advice over the years.

Dr. Smith, we three have talked over plans for utilizing my skills at McDonogh #42 school while sitting around my pool and eating my BBQ.

When my students arrived in class on the first day of school, these students were angry and did not want to be in school and did not want to be told what to do. Some put their heads down on the desk and went to sleep. The level of vulgarity from student to student was tremendous and the level of disrespect to me and any other adult was very high. This was a very tough first day, and I called 5 parents on my cell phone to please come to the school to hold up your child’s head and keep their eyes open so that I could teach them, or to please come in to help your child be quiet so that I could teach my class. Each parent came to the school and I began to gain control of my class. Over the first several weeks of school, I probably had 16 parents or sets of parents or grandmothers or aunts or uncles to spend time in my class. I did gain control of class.

These students were difficult to manage because they had been allowed to be disruptive over the last two years. They had also seen much neglect from the schools they were in. Later in the year after we had developed a good teacher-student relationship, three students who are repeaters of the 8th grade at McDonogh #42, told me that for much of the school year the students were kept seated in the hall so that the teachers and principal could keep an eye on them. They said very little teaching was done at our school. When I looked at the passing rate on the LEAP test of the 8th grade students, only 7% passed. So I can believe that very little teaching was done.

After about 6 or 7 weeks, two other teachers were hired that allowed me to focus just on the math.

I and the rest of the school staff (including security, custodial, and cafeteria workers) have brought these children from what I have described them to be on the first days of school to being much more normal 8th grade students. Students who want to learn and students who say “I’m sorry Mr. Peaden” for things they do wrong. And I have not called a parent into the class in some time now.

When I teach, I teach understanding, not memorization of rules or steps or cookbook solutions to problems. I do this by respecting the students’ present knowledge and building onto that knowledge. I deliver what I say I will deliver, and I predicted that my students would score well on the LEAP test. I promised the former principal that my target was 100% passing the LEAP test and if I slipped any it would be no lower than 90%. I cannot hold on to that promise now because I have been gone too long from my kids.

Again, this is not a scholarly writing; it is just some words at this time of the morning.

I will probably return to my engineering career and leave my businesses to my wife and son to run. The job I am thinking of taking will put me on the road 4 days per week (it is a consulting position). If I am allowed to return to the school to help bring my kids to perform the best they can on the LEAP test, I would do so. I can offer that whenever I am in town and available, I will be there for my kids. You do not have pay me for this service.

Harold Peaden


Thank you Mr. Peaden. Your account is very accurate about the challenges we faced in those first days. I believe you to be an honorable person who wanted to help our students for all of the right reasons. I know it was difficult for you to run your businesses and work with us full-time. Your comment also presents the problem that comes when a new school is building a staff, not just staffing a building. It takes time to assemble a stable team. You will be pleased to know that we are in the process of hiring a full-time Math teacher who has excellent experience teaching students who need remedial instruction. Your efforts during those first weeks are appreciated. I wish you the best of luck with your business ventures and your consulting career.

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Recent Comments

  • Roslyn: Thank you Mr. Peaden. Your account is very accurate about read more
  • Harold Peaden: I was the Mathematics teacher for the 8th grade students. read more
  • David: It sounds like the theft may have been an inside read more
  • Roslyn: I don't worry too much about the crooks who read read more
  • ParentsAreResponsible: Congratulations! You just advertised to all of the crooks out read more

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