A New Vision for EBR Schools

Key Takeaways from BRAC ‘s Monthly Webinar, featuring Dr. Sito Narcisse

BRAC’s March Monthly Webinar featured Dr. Sito Narcisse, newly elected Superintendent of East Baton Rouge Parish (EBR) Public Schools, and his Cradle-2-Career plan that he described as designed to unlock a brighter future for all students. This plan outlined six key goals: 

  • Increase access to quality early care and education; 
  • Ensure kindergarten readiness; 
  • Enter 3rd grade at or above grade level; 
  • Ensure a successful transition to middle school and provide rich learning opportunities pre-high school; 
  • Accelerate the number of students earning industry-based credentials that meet the city’s needs from 8th grade to graduation; and 
  • Accelerate the number of students graduating on time with an associate degree and a statewide industry-based credential and who are TOPS eligible. 

Dr. Narcisse is thinking bigger than critical student outcomes; he understands that “if you improve the school system, you improve the city.” 

Universal Pre-K: The First Step in the Superintendent’s Plan 

According to data Dr. Narcisse provided, nearly 60% of children arrive in kindergarten below grade level in reading. To address this issue, Dr. Narcisse is planning to increase preschool access for every four-year-old and to create early childhood education micro centers within the school district through CARES Act funds. The cost to provide universal preschool is estimated at $175 million and is not sustainable without collecting tax revenue. Dr. Narcisse plans to revisit the existing funding sources to lead the parish to a universal preschool that begins at age three.   

How does the Cradle-2-Career plan align to BRAC’s strategic goals? 

BRAC is supporting the Superintendent and his staff in this initiative, specifically the last two keys of the Cradle-2-Career Plan. BRAC has partnered with EBR schools in its application for a Fast Forward grant joining Baton Rouge Community College, River Parishes Community College, several school districts throughout the region, and business and industry representatives, to develop high school pathways aligned with the Capital Region’s workforce needs. Fast Forward is geared toward redesigning the high school experience to ensure each student who wants to may graduate with an Industry Based Credential (IBC) and an associate degree, as well as complete an apprenticeship.  

In doing this work, BRAC is always seeking to ensure that students are pursuing training in high-growth, high-wage industries and occupations. To help students gain more exposure to the economic opportunities that exist in the region, BRAC offers an annual Pathways to Prosperity Fellowship to public middle and high school principals, assistant principals, guidance counselors, and career counselors. The Fellowship, which in 2021 will be 100% virtual, connects industry and education by engaging these school leaders with week-long virtual externships in the healthcare, manufacturing, construction/skilled craft, and IT/software industries. Participants will engage with professionals at BRAC’s partner companies to learn about occupations and day-to-day operations at each of the industries. Selected Fellows will leave the program understanding the skills and knowledge necessary for success in these four target industries, trained to serve as ambassadors for those industries to their students and staff, and connectors between classroom and workplace concepts and skills. Qualified candidates can apply here through April 22, 2021. 

Next Steps: 

Dr. Narcisse believes, “it’s important that students are prepared to service the jobs that are available now, but also jobs that aren’t yet created.” To achieve this goal, Dr. Narcisse’s staff is focusing on expanding access to IBCs and associate degrees. He is requesting the assistance of business and industry stakeholders to craft courses and develop internships.  

For more information on Dr. Narcisse’s plans, check out the Baton Rouge Transition Report

BRAC investors interested in engaging in this work are invited to participate in BRAC’s Education and Workforce Issue Council meeting on March 29th. More information can be found at https://brac.org/councils-committees/

Tonnisha Ellis
As the policy and research project manager, Tonnisha is the staff lead for education and workforce development, focusing on the cradle to career public education and leading the organization and implementing the annual program of work with BRAC’s policy agenda education. Additionally, Tonnisha will engage in advocacy activities with local and state elected officials and administrative staff on BRAC’s education and workforce policy agenda.
Prior to working at BRAC, Tonnisha worked in higher education and state government. She served as the staff lead for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Advisory Council that focused on strengthening the capacity of HBCUs to participate in Louisiana’s workforce and economic development activities. She worked closely with the Board of Regents General Counsel to research and analyzed policies and procedures. She brings a vast amount of knowledge and experience in the legislative process.
Tonnisha is a native of Colfax, Louisiana and a graduate of Southern University A&M College, where she received her Bachelor’s and Master's of Science. She’s currently a board member of City Year and Dow Westside YMCA, alumna of Baton Rouge Leadership, and a member of Junior League of Baton Rouge,  Delta Sigma Theta, and LANO Community Leaders Program.
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