Editor’s note: We had originally intended to do a listing of “most popular” posts on UptownMessenger.com in 2011, but in the process decided that a focus on the most important stories of the year in Uptown New Orleans would be more substantive. What follows is our assessment of the stories we’ve covered over the past year that continue to matter the most, with some commentary explaining our thinking. And, for anyone curious, those “most popular” posts are included at bottom as well. Thank you to everyone who read us in 2011, and we look forward to another year.
A man found guilty of possession of cocaine after a drug deal in the Carrollton area now faces up to 10 years in prison without parole or probation if he is sentenced as a habitual offender, according to the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office.
Administrators at James Weldon Johnson Elementary School know all too well what to do when someone is killed by gunfire in the streets around the school.
First, lock down all the individual classrooms. Check the bathrooms to make sure no children are unaccounted for. Move lunch and PE inside the classrooms, and close the outdoor hallways, yards and community garden for the day.
“The students are totally resilient,” said Johnson Elementary Principal Wanda Brooks. “Unfortunately, they’ve gone through this several times before.”
The latest killing was just before noon on Wednesday, when a man was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds on the sidewalk in the 1700 block of Monroe Street, said NOPD spokeswoman Hilal Williams. His body lay three doors from the intersection with Hickory, and at least 22 shell casings were marked in the street alongside the students’ garden.
Two deputy superintendents promised the Carrollton neighborhood leaders that they would be involved in an upcoming feasibility study of the Priestley site. To questions about the plans for Booker T. Washington plan, they replied only that nothing is final and that they are continuing to hear concerns from the community.
KIPP Believe College Prep on South Carrollton is headed to a new school building in Gentilly, and Benjamin Banneker Elementary in the Riverbend is slated for a new campus in Hollygrove, according to school assignment plans being aired publicly by the Recovery School District this week.
Better communication with neighbors, problems with a corner store and long-term changes to area schools were all points of focus Thursday night for members of the Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association at their November monthly meeting.
With an apparent consensus in support of the latest plan to distribute what’s left of $2 billion in FEMA money to rebuild and repair New Orleans schools, attention is now quickly shifting to the programs will receive the school buildings once the money has been spent.
The new plan scales back the size of some schools to be built, finds new revenue sources and cuts cost elsewhere to spread the money to every school in the city, either through new construction; full renovation or exterior refurbishment to bring every campus to a standard of “warm, safe and dry.”
“Not every school is a new building, not every school is a gut-renovation, but every school is made whole for education,” said Recovery School District superintendent John White.
The agenda for tonight’s meeting of the Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association includes an update on the state’s plans for James Weldon Johnson Elementary School and the old Priestly campus, as well as a discussion of the Neighborhood Engagement Task Force.
Both campuses of Lusher Charter School, “Baby Ben” Franklin Elementary and the International School of Louisiana’s Camp Street campus are all newly slated for renovations under the latest plan to spend the remainder of a $2 billion FEMA payout for school repairs, and Johnson Elementary will have a renewed shot at moving to the Priestly site.
A majority of Uptown public schools continued the improvement that has characterized New Orleans schools in recent years, with Lusher and Audubon charter schools both earning “A” grades and New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School improving its score by more than 30 percent.
Uptown New Orleans has a relatively strong selection of campuses deemed “honor roll” schools by the state, those earning an A or B based on 2011 school performance scores released Wednesday. The lower-performing schools fall roughly into two categories: one group striving upward at varying rates, and similar-sized group continuing to struggle.
Stung by the pain of a broken promise, members of the James Weldon Johnson Elementary School community did their utmost Wednesday night to convince the new chief of the Recovery School District to resurrect a plan to move their campus to a safer, more prestigious site a few blocks away.
The Priestley site on Leonidas would symbolize social change, many said — traditionally, white schools in New Orleans were built on major thoroughfares like Leonidas, while black schools were tucked behind them in the neighborhood, like Johnson. But more importantly, the Priestley site is in a safer part of the neighborhood, they said.
“The crime is very high here,” said Johnson principal Wanda Brooks. “This school year, we had a killing in the back by the cafeteria.”
As the Riverbend community continues its fight to move the Johnson School to the former Priestley campus, neighborhood leaders have released a petition in hopes of showing school officials wide support for the project.
Which Uptown New Orleans school buildings need attention the most and how to divide the money for building and renovating them was debated by motivated and skeptical crowd of nearly 200 public-education supporters Monday night.
City and state school officials are seeking public comment on the latest master plan for spending a nearly $2 billion payment from FEMA to rebuild New Orleans schools, and Monday night’s meeting focused on buildings in the Orleans Parish School Board’s Uptown- and Carrolton-based District 6. Supporters of the various schools showed their allegience in T-shirts and signs, and during a somewhat free-form input session inundated officials with their opinions.
For decades an eyesore, the old Priestley school site on Leonidas now represents the neighborhood’s best hope for a community school, and the Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association is preparing to fight to be heard by state officials who currently plan to sell it.