The Lusher Charter School board suspended its renaming effort after an attorney for a group of Lusher parents, alumni and students warned of pending litigation over alleged violations of the state’s Open Meetings Law, The Lens has reported. The board had formed a study group that met privately to come up with names to replace that of Robert Mills Lusher, an avowed segregationist and Confederate official, but received public pushback on the recommended names at a recent board meeting, where board members voted to form another study group.
After years of controversy and debate, the board governing Lusher Charter School officially voted on Thursday to change the school’s name to … something to be decided.
At an emotional meeting that lasted almost four hours with 90 public comments, the Lusher board voted against renaming the school after pediatric oncologist Jeanne Marie Lusher. The four board members who opposed keeping “Lusher” in the name were Alysia Loshbaugh, Rachel Wisdom, Kiki Huston and George Wilson, while the two members willing to consider it were Brenda Bourne and Gary Solomon.
“We are not the name. We are the community. We are the students. We are the faculty,” Wisdom said.
The pandemic along with the racial reckoning in our country and, most recently, Hurricane Ida have all put New Orleans’ kids in a position to experience a collective trauma — much like people my age experienced after Hurricane Katrina. In addition to traumas already thrust upon them, children attending Lusher Charter School are attuned to many internal school-related traumas. Their school leaders have put their best interests last for one of the simplest things that they have control over: the name of their school. Lusher Charter School is named for Robert Mills Lusher, a Confederate tax collector, segregationist and unabashed member of the Crescent City White League. By today’s standards and any anti-racist standard, Mr. Lusher would be someone who should be unequivocally rejected as a person to name anything after.
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.
After years of contention stemming from the Robert Mills Lusher’s white supremacist legacy, the Lusher Charter School board voted Thursday to begin the process of renaming the highly rated K-12 public school, Marta Jewson reports in The Lens. After a 90-minute closed-door executive session and unanimous public vote, the board selected a committee to consider new names for the school. The Orleans Parish School Board has renamed the elementary and high school buildings, but the school name can only be changed by the charter board.
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.
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.
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.
The Renaming Committee for New Orleans Public Schools met Tuesday (May 25) to deliberate on the final names they will propose to school Superintendent Henderson Lewis. From there, Lewis will review the list of names and make his recommendations to the Orleans Parish School Board for their final vote of approval over the summer. The Renaming Committee consists of a School Board member appointed by the OPSB president, a representative of the NOLA Public Schools administration and community members approved by the superintendent.
According to NOLA P-S, the parish school system has the authority to change the outward facing name on any of its buildings. However, NOLA-PS cannot change the program name designated by a charter management organization because the charter schools are governed by their own boards and leadership.
In a press release, NOLA-PS gave this example: “The OPSB could change a school building’s physical name to read Nelson Mandela School. But, if the charter management organization chooses to keep its program name, the school’s official name would be titled as follows: ‘McDonogh 7 Charter School at the Nelson Mandela building.’”
The School Board had more than 300 qualified recommendations for renaming honorees and thousands of community comments on the renaming initiative.
“This gives us an opportunity to correct the racial and gender imbalances in our school naming,” said committee member Olin G. Parker.
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.”