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|E-mails shed light on controversy initiated by Nicholson|
(Editor's Note: The following is an e-mail from Monroe Chamber of Commerce President Sue Nicholson to Ouachita Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. Bob Webber and University of Louisiana-Monroe President Dr. James Cofer. The e-mail concerns Nicholson's displeasure that the Monroe chamber and other entities were not included in any discussions to develop an education program to help school teachers deal with students from less than fortunate families.)
Bob and Jim:
I was surprised to read about the poverty forum for educators that will be held in West Monroe for the teachers from the 11 parish area.
What surprised me the most was that the effort was a collaborative effort between the Ouachita Parish School Board, ULM the City of West Monroe and the WM Chamber.
Why were other chambers and school systems not invited to participate? The Ouachita Parish System represents both east and west Ouachita and ULM certainly represents the region.
I was especially surprised, Bob, because you recently visited with both the Monroe Chamber and the WM Chamber on a property tax that will impact just east Ouachita. I know you agree that poverty impacts our entire parish and region. In fact, the WM area is probably the most affluent public school area in the entire region.
It is my understanding that neither the Children?s Coalition or United Way were invited to participate. Both of these organizations have spent tremendous resources to address issues related to children in poverty.
I am not asking for any action and I respectfully ask that you take none. I am just perplexed that significant partners were excluded.
President, Monroe Chamber of Commerce
(Editor's Note: The following is an e-mail from Pam Accardo, chairperson of the West Monroe/West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce, to Sue Nicholson, president of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce. Accardo's e-mail addresses concerns Nicholson raised over the Monroe chamber and other entities not being invited to participate in a new program to help teachers deal with students from less than fortunate backgrounds.)
As I am the chairperson of the West Monroe Chamber this year, Blake (Wheelis) felt he needed to share your email with me. He is out of town now, but we have had a very long discussion over the phone today and he agrees with my following comments.
First, let me tell you that I am answering you in the same spirit that you sent this note to the others. I just need to answer your concerns.
When Bill (Kight) was our chairman, he began an aggressive education push with our board which resulted in our Chamber's PACE program. We also started doing teach for a day programs, working with Riverbend, etc in a more proactive way. This year when I took over as chair, I wanted to continue this push even further as I am an "old" school teacher! This is still a passion with me. I began my teaching career at Richwood High so I understand what these teachers feel. When we began to look for ways to help our education initiative, this idea was born through discussions with Mary Ann (Newton) and Bob Weber.
We have in no way left anyone out of anything. All teachers in all school systems in our area are invited to attend. The course is open for anyone - teacher or not - to take the class. We have taken extra care to make sure everyone who would benefit from this program know it is available. Our chamber is facilitating this program for everyone. We stressed this to the media yesterday in a effort to avoid anyone getting the wrong idea.
I am not sure what discussions you are mentioning so I can't address those concerns. (and there is no need to explain.)
This is simply a program that our chamber has started like any program that your chamber would start. I do not believe that you should have any concerns that any teacher will be left out of this program. It is available for all. If you are concerned that we did not ask any other chamber to join us - well that is just not a practical matter. We can not attend all your planning meetings for all your programs or any other chambers for that matter as you can not attend all of our meetings.
Our chamber is always eager to work with the Monroe Chamber and others which I believe we continue to demonstrate. We always try to NOT step on anyone's toes when programs are initiated by other groups but be supportive if we can. We are not doing this program for any credit for our chamber but to help teachers better teach children in our area.
All these groups you mentioned are wonderful hard-working groups and are doing their part to make our community a better place to live - just the same as the Monroe Chamber and the West Monroe Chamber. We can all continue to move forward through all our efforts - individually and jointly - to make our area the best! I would hope that these great program will not be marred by issues such as this coming up, so I wanted to address any wrong impressions.
I hope you now understand that we are not trying to leave the Monroe Chamber or any other group out of anything. If you need any other information or would like to discuss this further, please feel free to give me a call.
Thanks so much!
Chairperson, West Monroe/West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce