A VOICE FOR PARENTS

CURTIS KNAPP PHOTOGRAPH

On the surface, Angela Daliet could look like a typical mother of multiple children: stressed, sleep deprived and edgy.

Mother of three boys 13 and under, she deals with school buses arriving at dawn, homework and sporting events scheduled 200 miles away, just like all parents who juggle work and parental responsibilities.

But Daliet’s brand of motherhood stretches beyond the typical – she has expanded her mothering to include all New Orleans school-aged children. As the founder of Save Our Schools, an organization dedicated to giving parents a voice in the city’s ever evolving school systems, she has turned herself into New Orleans’ most recognized public school parent.

 When a print or television news reporter needs a quote from a parent on an education issue, Daliet is either readily available at the news event or just a call away. She is also ready with an alternative viewpoint, a view that rarely dovetails with the standard wisdom of the day.

“I am a parent who felt wronged by the system,” she says. “I keep pushing, pushing and not taking no for an answer. I’m like that anyway.”

She is no fan of officials’ love affair with semi-autonomous, public charter schools, and she’s upfront about her concerns. Even though she insists she’s not opposed to charter schools, she sees many problems with the model that aren’t being addressed, including burdensome transportation costs, their inaccessibility to all students and the development of a new kind of class structure that regulates the poorest children to the worst schools.

“For the most part, [the problems] are being overlooked or swept under the rug,” Daliet says. Even worse, “Parents don’t have real access to change the climate.”

The “rough road” that led her to parent activism and charter school criticism started after Hurricane Katrina, when she was exiled to north Louisiana. Her rented house near the New Orleans-Metairie line took 10 feet of water, and Edward Hynes Elementary where her boys were enrolled, then located in Lakeview, was also damaged. Without a school for her children to attend, she couldn’t return.

She was told that Hynes wouldn’t reopen until 2011, but she refused to accept that pronouncement. Already a member of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization, she helped form the Re-Open Hynes Committee.  Reopening on the original Harrison Avenue site in Lakeview wasn’t an option at the time, so she helped get the school a charter to open temporarily at the St. James Major School, formerly a parochial school in Gentilly.  Construction on a new school on the Lakeview campus is underway now.

The effort led to forming Save Our Schools, and about a year later she became a full-time parent advocate operating on grant money allocated by the 21st Century School Fund and the Ford Foundation. Pre-Katrina, she spent her working days as an investment advisor, but now she spends her time informing parents about school options, updating individual school information on a website and blogging about education issues.

She recently took the school system to task in her blog when it was reported that a 6-year-old had been handcuffed to his desk by a security guard at Sarah T. Reed Elementary, a Recovery District school. The child’s parents learned of the incident when he complained about sore wrists.

“Where is the accountability by the school, teacher, security guard to the community and parents?” Daliet asked. “You don’t find that type of accountability in standardized test scores, for sure.”

She thinks the state is too focused on test scores. Because it judges schools, principals and teachers according to student scores, the climate of many schools is too rigid. The state needs to “take a step back from test scores,” she says. “Happiness is a requirement for quality.”

But parental concerns aren’t taken into consideration, Daliet says. “The bottom line is parents are shut out of the process,” she says. “It’s worse in charter schools.”

In another blog, she takes the Council for a Better Louisiana to task for releasing a poll last year that showed strong public support for the charter schools that sprung up in the aftermath of the storm. CABL said the poll showed that New Orleans residents want to continue the education changes that came after Katrina, but Daliet says the poll doesn’t reflect the views of the “active participants” of the system.

Only a quarter of adults in New Orleans have a college degree, she writes, but 50 percent of the people polled were college graduates. Moreover, according to her research, many of the poll responders had a higher income than the parents of the average public school student who qualifies for federally sponsored free lunches.

In reality, she says, the city’s current split system of traditional schools and charter schools often creates hardships for parents and students. There aren’t enough “good” schools in her view, and if parents are lucky enough to gain access to one, the children often ride a bus two hours daily to get to school and back because the school is located so far away.

She also says that the conventional wisdom that parents now have a choice about what school to enroll their children in is false. Because charter schools find ways to select students even if they don’t have obvious selective admissions policies, a system of “have and have nots” has developed. She says students who can’t get in “good” schools are relegated to Recovery District schools, the ones deemed “academically unacceptable” by the state pre-Katrina.

Test scores show steady improvements in these schools, especially in RSD charters, but the majority of students attending traditional RSD schools still fail the state’s LEAP test, the annual standardized test that measures student performance at grade level.

Daliet’s ideal system is one of traditional neighborhood schools without the corruption and ineptitude that marked the former Orleans Parish School Board. “I’m not against charter schools,” she says. “I’m pro good schools in every neighborhood that are accessible to every kid in the city.”

Fighting for schools is her daily bread, and it has become a family project. Her partner of two years, Damon Williams, a measurement technician for Shell Oil, provides for their joint brood of seven children. All of them pitch in to help her work education events.

“My kids are so wonderful,” Daliet says. “They will be at home alone doing their homework while I’m at Hollygrove organizing the community to get a new school. That’s just the sacrifice.”
 

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Reader Comments:
Aug 1, 2010 07:18 pm
 Posted by  monique504

Angela Daliet is a crock of crap. All she does is drink margaritas and preach about information that is readily available to the public. I would watch for her. She got kicked off of Hynes' PTO and never supports that school. She is a liar. SOSNOLA is a joke and way to support her lifestyle. Sad...

Aug 2, 2010 11:26 am
 Posted by  Susan

As a supporter of SOSNOLA, and Angela Dailet, I feel that she has poured her heart and soul into what she has done.I have spent time with her learning about all she does. If more people would make an effort to DO something rather than just complain about the way things are, then change would be possible. I don't see many people out there fighting for a better education for kids in poorer neighborhoods. They need a voice. I commend Angela for what she has done and what she continues to do. It's a shame that people will find fault with the effort of others while they sit back and watch them work.

Aug 2, 2010 12:14 pm
 Posted by  bayouboy

I am glad to see there is someone else out there that knows the TRUTH about Angela Daliet. The New Orleans magazine should have really done their research before writing this article. She should work on saving her own three kids before attempting to save an entire community. Ridiculous! And for the record, Angela's three children have a FATHER that provides for her children. She wastes all her energy and time going out of her way to make it seem otherwise and it is truly disgusting. For all of you out there who have been fooled by Angela Daliet, I don't blame you because it is what she does best. Time will reveal the truth, believe that.

Aug 2, 2010 12:32 pm
 Posted by  BrandyM

As a Hynes parent and PTO member, I can attest that Angela Daliet was never kicked off the Parent Teacher Organization! That is simple lie. As a matter of fact, our school would never have reopened if it wasn't for her and her efforts, for which she never even asked for acknowledgement. And FYI, Angela is the one that discovered the former treasurer of our organization stole over $80,000 and she got the grand jury indictment of that con (look it up!). How much more support can she give our school, it has taken up a majority of her work in my opinion for Hynes benefit. Sad that hard-working people getted dissed by the lazy, finger-pointing ones. And, have you seen the website she created or the work she's done in Hollygrove? Probably not, since you are just sitting back drinking margaritas.

Aug 2, 2010 01:09 pm
 Posted by  robin j

Great article on a great woman and activist in our city. Kudos to New Orleans Magazine for highlighting the work of someone who is really making a difference in the lives of public school children in our city. Thank you, Angela Daliet, for all you do for us!
Robin J.

Aug 2, 2010 01:17 pm
 Posted by  CT

Angela Daliet is doing great things. I'm surprised the article didn't mention the work that she has also done to directly help students. My son was honored to participate in Save our Schools youth workshops last year which motivated him and helped build his confidence to do better in school and stand up for better public schools. Please support this organization. We need it.

Aug 2, 2010 02:47 pm
 Posted by  Chris

Finally someone is speaking the truth about what's going on here. My wife and I moved back to New Orleans post Katrina last year after the "deadline" to register our son and daughter into our neighborhood school and were told that we would have to enter a lottery to get them in next year. The brand new school is across the street! Our only choice was to "register" with the district so they could place us in some hell hole that no one wants to send their kids to. We are hard working middle class interracial couple and want a good, racially diverse school for our kids to attend that is close to our home. Unless you know someone, you can't do that. I'm so sick of hearing how this crazy, segregated school system is better. Like Ms. Daliet said, we need a good school in every neighborhood, not charter schools all over selecting which students they're going to take. This should be a federal crime.

Aug 2, 2010 02:49 pm
 Posted by  Dawn H

I agree with Monique and Bayou, Angela Daliet has failed on so many levels. New Orleans Magazine you should really do more research on who you promote as positive people in the community. It seems this not for profit organization benefits no one but Angela Daliet. And, having a few events a year for fundraising does not count for saving our schools, this appears to be an attempt to promote herself and SOSNOLA because she, and it are failing. I feel sorry for her supporters because they have been blindsided by her facade as a advocate for children and education. She needs to focus more on her own children and keep them first. And Bayou Boy I'm sure her kids do have a great FATHER that supports and loves them and if she dilutes that relationship she will pay for that eventually. I'm sure the joint seven children are well adjusted despite of her, not because of her. I hope that people learn about this woman and quickly because no one benefits from SOSNOLA except Angela Daliet. In a nutshell, she is just a big mouth with thwarted views of the way public education should be. So if you are a supporter, don't look at the surface, look at the core. And from what I have witnessed, its pretty rotten.

Aug 2, 2010 06:02 pm
 Posted by  Lee S.

Amazing. A couple of you sound like you have a personal vendetta against Mrs. Daliet and her children that you are letting cloud your vision of the great work for public school parents and students that she and her organization has done. The families in our organization have been greatly helped by the fine folks at Save Our Schools including Angela, Dana, and Mallory. They have spent hours helping our parents and students navigate the crazy public school system over the last few years with no compensation whatsoever. Her children have even come to our community center and helped out as well (and they seem mighty fine themselves). Just a gentlemen's perspective of work that needs to continue. Maybe you all can help SOSNOLA with some of their programs that you don't think are doing that well.

Aug 2, 2010 06:05 pm
 Posted by  Sowhatshonuff

This woman must have a lot of enemies. I was googling her today because she keeps sending my boyfriend messages that are pretty off color. I feel sorry for the dude that is supporting her seven kids, cause she has a terrible reputation. He must be a good man for putting up with her for two years. I don't know what she does in her professional life, but she needs to clean up her act if she is representing the kids. I hope for everybody involved that she is what she says she is and not what people say she is.

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