The design of the new Booker T. Washington High School building will be on display at a public meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight (Monday, March 19) at New Orleans College Prep, formerly the Sylvanie Williams school, at 3127 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The new high school will be home to New Orleans College Prep, which is currently slated to take over Walter L. Cohen High School as well.
After Saturday’s cancellations, Uptown parade-goers were treated to a total of six parades Sunday — five in the morning, and the superkrewe Bacchus in the evening — with dense crowds along the entirety of each route. First were NOMTOC, normally a Westbank parade, and Iris, two Saturday parades added to the Sunday schedule because of rain. NOMTOC’s theme was “A Mythological Nightmare” and Iris was themed “Messenger of the Gods.” Following those were the usual Sunday morning lineup of Okeanos, Mid-City and Thoth. Okeanos’ theme was “Gone but Not Forgotten,” featuring lost local icons, Mid-City presented “Apocalypso: Party at the End of the World,” and Thoth’s theme was “Streets of New Orleans.”
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. 1) Murder
The city’s unyielding — in fact, substantially growing — murder rate is arguably the single most important story of New Orleans in 2011, and Uptown New Orleans was by no means spared in the epidemic.
Supporters of Johnson Elementary took another passionate stand in support of the school’s move to the more desirable site of the old Priestley campus during a Recovery School District public hearing Wednesday evening, while Booker T. Washington supporters questioned a plan to tear down and rebuild most of that historic building to house two separate high schools, including a charter-run version of Walter L. Cohen. 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. Johnson | Moving a steadily-improving educational program at James Weldon Johnson Elementary into a more prestigious, safer location at the old Priestley campus has been a top priority for members of the Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association, and the half-dozen proponents of the idea dominated the small crowd at Thursday’s public hearing. The latest facilities plan calls for an engineering study to determine the cost differences between renovating Johnson’s current campus versus building at the Priestley site, and association president Anne Wolfe Nicolay insisted that neighborhood members be involved in the actual studying — not just given a report to read and react to afterward.
The state’s plan to transform Walter L. Cohen High School into a charter school over the next two years inspires a mixed reaction through the school community, based on a Wednesday night meeting with dozens of alumni, faculty, parents and students. While some Cohen supporters agreed with the state that the school is in dire need of dramatic change to its dismal, lowest-in-the-state performance, many remain skeptical about what they see as a painful transition with an uncertain outcome. The plan at Cohen is for a gradual takeover by a charter operator, New Orleans College Prep. This year, the direct-run Cohen did not accept any ninth-grade students, while College Prep began operating a ninth grade on the third floor of the Cohen building. Next year, the traditionally-run high school will only have 11th and 12th grades, while College Prep will add a 10th grade. “One will grow while the other one shrinks,” Recovery School District Superintendent John White told the Cohen supporters gathered in the school library.
Walter L. Cohen High School is slated to be gradually taken over by NOLA College Prep over the next two years, according to an RSD announcement that also casts the challenges faced by Sojourner Truth Academy this year into sharp relief.
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. But even as education advocates began thanking the state officials for redrawing the plan, discussion turned to control of the buildings themselves. The Orleans Parish School Board voted to accept the plan Thursday night, for example, but first added an amendment essentially saying that no building could be given to a Type 2 charter unless the Orleans Parish School Board declared it surplus first.
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. Lusher supporters in particular dominated the town hall forums held in Uptown New Orleans over the summer, describing their buildings’ critical structural issues that needed repair. The argument they made, joined in by representatives over other Uptown campuses, is that the rush to build “21st Century” buildings around the city should not take undue priority over the needs of existing programs.
Those concerns were apparently heard by district officials, because the plan released Friday creates an additional category of schools to be refurbished, including many Uptown campuses. Patty Glazer, assistant head of Head of School at Lusher, praised district leaders for their “creative problem solving” with the reallocations. “We’re thrilled,” Glazer said.
Uptown schools vary widely in both the quality of their instruction and their openness to the public, according to a pair of reports released this week. Schools run by the Recovery School District in Baton Rouge – originally designed to take over the state’s worst-performing schools, and the governing body of many New Orleans schools since Hurricane Katrina – still show far worse results than those run locally in Orleans Parish, according to results released by the state Department of Education and compiled for the New Orleans area by the Times-Picayune. Uptown schools run directly by the Recovery School District, such as Walter Cohen High School, and even some of its charters, such as the Sojourner Truth Academy, were rated “academically unacceptable.” Uptown New Orleans is also home to some of the best schools in the city, the results show. Lusher charter schools’ five-star rating marks it as among the absolute highest-scoring in the state.