Johnson Elementary community, Carrollton neighbors beseech RSD superintendent for Priestley site

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.”

Riverbend neighbors create petition to move Johnson school to Priestley site

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. Leaders of the Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association have been advocating the Johnson’s use of Priestley ever since it was stripped out of the school district’s master plan earlier this summer. After fiery appearances at several town-hall meetings with school officials, the survey represents the association’s latest tactic for drawing the district’s attention. The survey can be found at The Priestley site has a better, more central location that more parents would be comfortable sending their children to, association members have said.

Riverbend neighborhood prepares to fight for school at old Priestley site

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. Less than a week after two members denounced local and school district officials for dropping plans to renovate Priestley, the association’s board voted Thursday night to urge school officials to return to their original promise to move James Weldon Johnson Elementary to the Priestley site, instead of the current plan to spend $16 million renovating Johnson and then selling off Priestley. The Priestley site is in a safer location on a main thoroughfare, which will make it more attractive to middle-class families in the neighborhood, the association said. The board discussed but did not take a position on the relative merits of renovating the old Priestley building versus demolishing it and constructing a new facility there. Some neighbors said starting over on the site might be cheaper and thus easier to convince the Recovery School District to do, while others described their personal fondness for the historic structure.

New plans not to renovate Priestley school draw sharp criticism

Like parents, educators and community members at so many schools around the city, supporters of James Weldon Johnson Elementary in Carrollton are increasingly frustrated with the latest plans for their campus. The public school system is embarking on a $2 billion three-phase to improve school facilities across New Orleans, and over the next month will be finalizing plans on how to distribute the money across the city. On Saturday, the latest version of these plans were presented at a public meeting at Xavier University, and among the new information was that renovations are no longer planned at the long-vacant Priestley High School site. The Priestly building was still being promised to Johnson Elementary as recently as a community meeting in January, but a Recovery School District official explained at Saturday’s meeting that moving Johnson is no longer a priority. The Sewerage and Water Board announced in late March a federal project to cease transporting poisonous chlorine gas through Johnson’s neighborhood, ending the hazard that had made the Johnson site a questionable location for a school, said Lona Edwards Hankins, the RSD executive director for capital projects.