The former Lusher Charter School, now the Willow School, is holding four events to mark the name changes for its program and individual campuses.
The Willow School charter board, the Advocates for Arts Education, operates elementary, middle and high schools on three Uptown campuses.
The name of Robert Mills Lusher, a Reconstruction-era state school superintendent who promoted and instituted racial segregation in public schools, was removed from the charter school program after years of protest. The school buildings, including one named for Lusher, also received new names.
NOLA Public Schools, the parish’s school board and administration, changed the campus names in 2021. The Advocates for Arts for Arts Education later renamed the school program the “Willow School” after a long and controversial process. It officially became Willow School on July 1.
The first event, a renaming celebration and arch reveal, is planned for today (Sept. 2) from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m, at the Elijah J. Brimmer Jr. high school campus, the former Fortier High School at 5624 Freret St.
The Willow high school student body will gather on Freret Street to celebrate the new Willow School arch on the front gate entrance. The ceremony will include music, student and VIP speakers, and the firing of school color cannons.
On Saturday (Sept. 3), each of three campuses is holding a celebratory event. The Willow middle school is also celebrating its move into the former Henry W. Allen School on Loyola Avenue.
Willow elementary school on the Williams campus
From 10 a.m to 11 a.m., a ribbon-cutting ceremony will officially open the Dr. Everett J. Williams Jr. campus, the home of the Willow elementary school at 7315 Willow St.
This building had been named for Robert Lusher. Now the nearly 1,900-student kindergarten-though-12th-grade charter school program is named for its Willow Street location.
The parish school board honored Williams, the first Black superintendent of the city’s public school system, in 2021 by renaming the building after him.
The Willow School community is invited to a “morning meeting,” a school tradition with dancing, singing and celebrating, a press release states.
Musician Phillip Manuel will lead the way with his song “Learning the Willow Way.” Speakers will include the school’s interim CEO Nicolette London, members of the Williams family and Willow community, with a ribbon cutting and the unveiling of Dr. Williams’ official portrait.
Willow high school on Brimmer campus
The Willow School high school’s ceremony will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. It will include the ribbon cutting for the Elijah J. Brimmer Jr. campus, 5624 Freret St.
Brimmer was a longtime music teacher at Alcée Fortier High School. Hired in 1978, Brimmer was among the second wave of Black teachers to integrate Fortier High School. A petition in support of the name changes states Brimmer “worked to change the systemic racism within Mardi Gras parades” that affected Black high school bands at the time.
The Willow School community will celebrate the Brimmer campus with a speakers NOLA-PS Superintendent Avis Williams, Willow’s interim CEO London, School Board member Olin Parker, City Council members and members of the Brimmer family.
The ceremony will feature the Fortier Alumni Band and the unveiling of the official portrait of Elijah Brimmer Jr. The event will culminate with a performance by the alumni band of Fortier High School with a traditional march out of the building and down the front steps.
Alcée Fortier, a late-19th and early-20th century writer, language professor and Tulane University administrator, was 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.
Willow middle school on Marsalis campus
The Ellis Marsalis Jr. campus, the new home of the Willow middle school at 5625 Loyola Ave., will officially open in a ceremony from 4 to 6 p.m.
The middle school had been housed on the former Fortier campus with the high school. The charter board took over the former Allen School after the New Orleans Charter Science & Mathematics High School, known as Sci High, moved out in 2021.
The school building was renamed after the renowned educator, pianist and patriarch of the Marsalis musical family. Ellis was a longtime resident of Uptown’s Carrollton area.
The Loyola Avenue campus had been named for Henry W. Allen, a Confederate officer who owned slaves on his sugarcane plantation in West Baton Rouge.
The Willow School community will celebrate the move into the Marsalis campus with speakers including interim CEO London, members of the Marsalis family and the school community.
There will be a jazz band performance and the unveiling of the Ellis Marsalis official portrait.
More information is available on willowschoolnola.org.