The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) is seeking to lead a community dialogue on racism and race relations in order to establish a foundation for improving public education systems and student achievement. In 2008, East Baton Rouge Parish (EBR) had the second highest percentage of Academically Unacceptable Schools in the state after Orleans Parish. After a racially charged public process, the state assumed control over eight low performing schools in early 2009, and revealed an extremely high level of racial discord. The community did not and could not have a conversation about what options were best for the children in those schools because of racial distrust, and the cumulative effects of cyclical poverty and racial segregation.
In response, BRAC will lead a vast, community-wide dialogue about race, trust, and a foundation for discussing improving educational outcomes. BRAC and its community partners (an open door group) will lead an eight to ten-month process to host at least 50 community-level dialogues on race, and culminate in a major community race dialogue event of 500 to 1000 citizens facilitated by America Speaks, a national public engagement organization. Building on that foundation, BRAC will facilitate a six to 12-month community-led strategic planning process, involving the participants of the race dialogues and others willing to engage. The outcome of the grant will be a true community-led strategic plan for public education improvement.