LSU was founded in 1860. The university is our flagship and an international brand that is near and dear to most in our state—and alumni worldwide. As a native and a graduate, I count myself among them. LSU is a point of pride, but like any institution, it is not without its challenges or faults, and there are currently some serious issues the Ole War Skule is facing. But that has been the case many times over the 159 years for our major university that is the size of a city like Houma. The decisions are often not easy to make and people often can disagree. Some believe they could do better calling the shots, like coaching the Tigers on Saturday night in Death Valley. Easier said than done.
Richard Lipsey seems to think that way. He is a former member of the Louisiana Board of Regents, a successful businessman, an LSU graduate and a friend of mine. But his recent blog online appeared to be a personal attack towards President F. King Alexander and Athletic Director Joe Alleva. This mean-spirited rant seemed out of character for such a distinguished citizen. But thank God we live in America and sharing one’s views is protected.
While Lipsey wants to point at all the negatives at LSU, he didn’t note that LSU has set records for the most graduates, the most incoming freshmen, the highest incoming GPA and other achievements in recent years. He also left out that LSU athletics has more teams ranked in the top 20 than any other university and has achieved the highest graduation rate and GPA for student athletes in their history. Aren’t these the goals and results you want for LSU? Or is there another agenda here? Is it personal?
But I have since learned from Lipsey that he did have help with his blog. He admits openly that he hired a political consultant, John Mathis of Baton Rouge, to help him with his group, Putting Louisiana First. When asked about his recent blog post and whether he had a consultant to “advise, assist or edit” with that blog, he replied, “Correct. My calls. His help.” In addition to the help with his words, he also confirmed they spent money to boost the opinion shared with “some paid promotion of our content with Facebook, Google…” So it seems this rant is more than just exercising one’s free speech and personal views. It’s an organized campaign.
As for Mathis, he has been active in state and national politics. Just Google “John Mathis” with the “Solution Fund,” “Warrior PAC” and “Judge Roy Moore.”
Fact is, Lipsey was chairman of the Board of Regents— the board that oversees all of higher education in Louisiana—for the last two years. Did he discuss his own record of reform or results when he was in charge?
Let’s admit it: Coach Will Wade created this recent firestorm after he was caught on an FBI wiretap and wouldn’t discuss it. That is his right and his choice. He knew the consequences. Same as he teaches his players about breaking team rules. But it is also LSU’s duty to protect its 159-year international reputation and brand for the students, faculty, alumni, donors and citizens. You may disagree, but I believe LSU did what it had to do and put the integrity of the university ahead of athletic competition. It can be painful, but the right choices are not always the easy ones. We are all following this situation closely, as is the rest of the nation.
As a publisher, Tiger and former Board of Supervisors member who loves LSU, I understand we will all have our opinions about decisions at LSU and at times must agree to disagree. In this case, I disagree with Lipsey and believe he is not “putting LSU first.”
Kipp is back
It is said, if at first you don’t succeed, try again. Thankfully for children in our community, New Schools for Baton Rouge did just that. It was 2001 when KIPP Academy, a nationally acclaimed charter school, first sought to come to East Baton Rouge Parish. While our system was much larger then, it was—as continues to be the case—poorly performing and in desperate need of innovation and choices for parents. A school board member at the time named Pat Smith (now a state representative planning to run for the state senate) was one of the loudest critics to the dream of having a KIPP school in Baton Rouge. She, with her lack of vision and opposition to change, succeeded in keeping them out of our community—and many minority children and families were denied a choice, losing a golden opportunity for an excellent education. But Smith protected “the adults” working in the system and members of the unions. What shame for this public servant, who knows that a good education is the key to the future—and was in 2001.
Well, thank the Lord, despite having to wait 18 years, KIPP is willing to come back and has applied to open three schools in East Baton Rouge.
There are 209 KIPP schools in 20 states and Washington, D.C., educating nearly 100,000 students in elementary, middle and high schools.
In all, 10 charter school networks have applied to the East Baton Rouge Parish Public School Board for 2019 authorization. The school system currently has 10 charter schools, four of which opened in 2018.
The complete list of 2019 charter school applicants to the East Baton Rouge Public School System include 10 educational organizations requesting approval by the EBR School Board of 13 new charter schools now or for the future. Lots of potential options there for parents, though all may not be approved.
Three of these networks are already operating schools here and making an impact, including BASIS, Community School for Apprenticeship Learning, and Mentorship Academy. Our thanks to each of them.
Hats off to New Schools for Baton Rouge for all the work they did to get KIPP, BASIS, IDEA and others to invest in Baton Rouge and provide excellent choices to parents and children in our community. Dreams still can come true—and I feel certain our school board won’t make the same mistake twice. Welcome back, KIPP.
• Kudos to the 2019 Hall of Fame Laureates and Business Award winners honored last week. All were profiled in our last issue. What an impact each has made and an example and inspiration they have provided.
• I also want to congratulate this year’s Influential Women in Business, who were announced March 25. They, too, are leading the way in our community and are role models. We look forward to honoring these successful women in May.
• Finally, let me applaud the first graduates of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. These high school students go above and beyond. Thanks to Deborah Sternberg for teaming up with LSU to provide this in our community—and all the sponsors for their support. YEA is now taking applications for their next fall academy at yeabr.org.