City plans to turn McDonogh 7 site into affordable housing

By Sharon Lurye, Uptown Messenger

A proposal from the Housing Authority of New Orleans to turn the former McDonogh 7 school building into affordable housing drew intense interest from neighbors as more than 50 people attended an online community meeting on Friday (June 18). Representatives from HANO and the architecture firm VergesRome laid out plans for the Uptown site, which currently houses the upper grades of Audubon Charter School. The three-story school building would be turned into 27 affordable housing units for seniors, while the rest of the site would house 12 more units in the form of family duplexes. There would be 41 parking spaces in total, and 20% of the site would be green space. If all goes according to plan, the Housing Authority aims for City Council approval in December or January and would start construction in the fall of 2022 or spring of 2023.

School Board takes steps to replace the Fortier name

The Alcée Fortier school building on Freret Street, now home to Lusher Charter School, will be renamed soon, according to NOLA Public Schools. 

Alcée Fortier High School closed in 2006, but Fortier’s name remains with the building that now serves as Lusher’s secondary school campus. The OPSB has the authority to change the outward facing name on any of its buildings but cannot change the school name, which is designated by the charter management organization. 

Lusher Charter School itself is named for Robert Mills Lusher, a Confederate official and fervent supporter of school segregation. A name change has long been discussed, but Lusher’s board, the Advocates for Arts Based Education, has not publicly stated whether it is considering a new name. Alcée Fortier, a late-19th and early-20th century writer, language professor and Tulane University administrator, was also known as a white supremacist. He praised the work of Robert Lusher and viewed public support for the education of White children as a means of fortifying White dominance, according to the NOLA-PS Renaming Committee. 

Fortier was among the White League fighters in the 1874 Battle of Liberty Place, an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the state government because of its commitment to racial equality.

Three names suggested to replace Robert Mills Lusher on the Willow Street school building

The Renaming Committee for NOLA Public Schools has proposed three names to replace Robert Mills Lusher for the building that houses Lusher Charter School’s elementary grades. 

The renaming effort by the Orleans Parish School Board and NOLA-PS applies to the buildings only, not the school programs. According to NOLA-PS, the OPSB only has the authority to change the outward facing name on any of its buildings. It cannot change the program name because charter schools are governed by their own boards and leadership. 

Renaming Lusher Charter School also has long been discussed within the community, but the board is silent on whether it is considering a name change. The building could take another name while the school itself keeps the name “Lusher.” Lusher Charter School and the elementary school’s building are both named after segregationist Robert Mills Lusher. While Lusher Charter has dropped the “Robert Mills” part of the name, it remains on the building.

Middle school filmmakers at Audubon Charter enjoy their long-awaited premiere

 

Audubon Charter School’s very first film festival was scheduled for March 14, 2020. That was five days after the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Louisiana, and it would be over a year before the middle school students — who wrote, acted in and helped to shoot the movies —  would be able to show off the products of their hard work. Out of the glare of the May morning sun, in the cool Prytania Theatre, Stephanie Knapp, an Audubon parent and teacher who led Audubon Charter students through the process of making movies together, took the stage. The students and their supporters — parents, family and friends — were masked and spread out in the theater, with alternating rows taped off to allow for sufficient social distancing. “It’s interesting to see how everything is changed, how everything is different … and everything is still kinda the same,” Knapp said.

Lycée Français plans to open high school in former Priestley building in 2022

It’s been three decades since students and teachers occupied the classrooms of Alfred C. Priestley Junior High School on Leonidas Street. That is expected to change in the 2022-23 school year, when Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans opens the renovated historic building as its new high school. The public French immersion school has been slowly expanding its presence in the Pigeon Town section of Carrollton. It is currently leasing the former James Weldon Johnson school building a few blocks away at 1800 Monroe St. and the former Ronald G. McNair Elementary School at 1607 S. Carrollton Ave.

Viewpoint: Did James Singleton Charter School and Dryades YMCA officials put children at risk?

The Dryades YMCA and its affiliate programs, including the School of Commerce and the James M. Singleton Charter School, have played an important role in providing recreational and educational services to New Orleanians for almost a century. The Dryades Y is well known for its child care services, aquatics programs, mobile youth pantry, young filmmakers’ workshop and, formerly, Midnight Basketball. 

The Dryades School of Commerce goes back to 1928, when it began offering classes in clerical skills such as bookkeeping, speedwriting and typing. With the leadership of District B Councilman Jay Banks, the School of Commerce currently operates a state-certified program to train licensed practical nurses. Under the direction of Principal Erika Mann, the James M. Singleton Charter School has successfully raised the test scores of their students, many of whom are considered disadvantaged. The Dryades Y board of directors includes respected members of the community such as cultural leader Barbara Lacen Keller, the Rev. Tom Watson, investment consultant Ed Shanklin, attorney Carlos Hornbrook and contractor Cedric Patin. 

Now a story in The Lens has revealed that the charter school reportedly falsified some of the criminal background checks required for school employees.

Goat yoga, plant sales and brunch start up again at Paradigm Gardens

Goat yoga and plant sales are starting up again Paradigm Gardens in Central City.  The events raise money for the Paradigm Gardens School, a tuition-free private school for kindergarten through 12th grade. Weekly plant sales start Sunday (Feb. 28) and promise seasonal heirloom veggies, fruits, flowers and herbs, plus something you generally don’t find at the big-box stories or garden centers: brunch. Breakfast from top local chefs, fresh squeezed juices and cold-brew coffee are offered, along with music, arts and crafts vendors and chair massages. 

Plant sales are Sundays from 9 a.m. to noon. If you’re in the market for plants, the Paradigm folks advise you to come early, as the plants sell out.

Two Lusher football coaches seriously injured in hit-and-run

Two football coaches at Lusher Charter School suffered serious injuries in a hit-and-run accident on Mardi Gras (Feb. 16) night, the school’s CEO and athletic director told the Lusher community in an email on Saturday. One coach lost both legs as a result of the hit-and run. The email from CEO Kathy Riedlinger and Athletic Director Louis Landrum sent Feb. 20 stated the accident caused “serious injury to Coach Pierre Warren and life-threatening injury to Coach Adam Sivia.”

Viewpoint: Lusher School leaders turn their backs on the need to remove a racist legacy

By Corinne A. Williams, guest columnist

On Jan. 1, New Orleans transformed one of its many relics of the Confederacy into a new monument for justice and excellence. When Jefferson Davis Parkway was renamed for Dr. Norman C. Francis, we cast off a president of the Confederacy for a president of a historically black university, a purveyor of educational equity and a living civil rights legend. In this moment, New Orleans took the time to register that white supremacy and sedition have no place on one of our most prominent parkways. For New Orleans — one of the Blackest cities in the United States, held together by the culture of Black people and kept afloat by a tourism industry that relies on the labor of Black people — it was a wrong made right.