Nov 302011

Tracy Davis stands behind police tape and prays in front of James Weldon Johnson Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon. Davis was coming home from work when he saw that a man had been shot to death close to his home. "It's ridiculous," said Davis. (Sabree Hill,

Police investigate the scene of a fatal shooting on Monroe Street. At least 22 bullets were found on scene. (Sabree Hill,

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. Continue reading »

Nov 152011

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. Continue reading »

Sep 212011

RSD planning director Adam Hawf (from left), superintendent John White, Carrollton resident Mary DeWitt Dukes and Pensiontown Neighborhood Association president Tilman Hardy speak Wednesday night after a meeting at the Johnson School campus. (Robert Morris,

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.” Continue reading »

Jul 182011

Audubon Charter School's Carrollton campus needs substantial renovations but is not scheduled for any work, one of several points in the school-facilities master plan that drew criticism Monday night. (Photo by Alysha Jordan,

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. Continue reading »

Jul 182011

Uptown-based Orleans Parish School Board districts 5 and 6

Supporters of moving Johnson Elementary to the old Priestley site will make their case to state and parish school officials Monday night at a public hearing on school plans in School Board District 6, which includes the Carrollton, Audubon and university neighborhoods in Uptown New Orleans.

School officials have said these meetings will be a crucial part of the process of dividing a $2 billion FEMA settlement to rebuild schools across the city. After public hearings have been held in each school board district, officials have said they will create a final draft of the plan based on the comments they receive. Continue reading »

Jan 042011

A lack of specifics on the proposed reuse of the shuttered Priestley school campus frustrated two Carrollton area activists at a Tuesday evening meeting about the future of New Orleans school buildings in the Recovery School District.

“It’s a spectacular piece of property, and the amount of imagination that’s been directed toward what ought to be done with the property has been zilch,” Robbie Robertson, who lives a few blocks from the old school, said after the meeting. Continue reading »