Viewpoint: After years of protest, Lusher Charter School could be renamed … Lusher Charter School

By Dana Eness, guest columnist
Lusher Charter School’s long-awaited name change may come as soon as the next meeting of the school’s board, the Advocates for Arts-Based Education, on Nov. 11. This follows a very painful and very public reckoning for the namesake of an avowed White supremacist, Robert Mills Lusher. It is the hard-earned outcome of marches and other forms of protest, resistance and attempts at dialogue with the administration led by students and alumni of color and supported by allies. The outcry continued in earnest following the murder of George Floyd in the spring of 2020.

Viewpoint: Lusher parents send letter to school officials decrying ‘racism within our school community in matters symbolic, structural, and everyday’

The parents of students at Lusher Charter School sent a letter Monday (July 5) to the school’s Advocates for Arts -Based Education Board and the administration calling for a name change and for greater transparency. The action comes after a reported exodus of faculty members and the exit of Principal Steve Corbett, who is set to become CEO of Audubon Schools. The following was sent with the signatures 175 Lusher parents. Dear Members of the Board, LCS administration, and LCS Community,

We are parents of students who attend LCS, and collectively have decades of experience with LCS. We are dismayed with the administration and board’s response to student and faculty calls to confront racism within our school community in matters symbolic, structural, and everyday.

Louise S. McGehee School will move child care center to a new building

The Louise S. McGehee School won unanimous approval from City Council on Thursday (July 1) to move its child-care center to another building on campus, allowing the all-girls private school to reorganize its classroom spaces for better social distancing. A zoning-related ordinance from 2001 mandated that the school could only use the building it owned on 2336 St. Charles Avenue as an alumni center and administrative offices. As a result, McGehee School had to ask for permission from City Council to allow that building, located at the back of its campus, to be used for child care and additional classrooms.

A City Planning Commission staff report admitted that it’s unclear why the school was so limited in the first place. “The staff is unaware of the original logic for implementing this use restriction,” the report said.

School superintendent proposes new names for Uptown school buildings

New Orleans school Superintendent Henderson Lewis has proposed names to replace school buildings named after slave owners and segregationists across New Orleans, including eight school buildings in Uptown neighborhoods. The superintendent’s recommendations were submitted to the Orleans Parish School Board, which will have the final say in a July 29 vote. This current renaming wave is one of many in the city’s history, as community members have advocated for name changes for decades. The Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 reignited the movement for schools named after slave owners or segregationists to be renamed. 

Orleans Parish School Board has the authority to change only the physical name on any school building they own. However, the charter boards of the schools within those buildings do not have to change the name of their academic program. 

Henry W. Allen 

Lewis chose musician and educator Ellis L. Marsalis Jr. to replace the Henry W. Allen for the school building at 5625 Loyola Ave.

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.