On Tuesday, June 19, 2012 the National Association of Black Journalists and New Orleans Association of Black Journalists in partnership with Place Matters/JCPES and Dillard University is sponsoring a public forum on "Reforming Education in Post-Katrina Louisiana." The event is scheduled to be held from 6:00 pm to 8:00pm at Dillard University's Professional Science Building-Georges Auditorium, 2601 Gentilly Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70122.
One of the more pronounced legacies of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans is undoubtedly the nearly total transformation of the city's beleaguered public education system. The decimation of the traditional school system after the storm provided an almost clean slate for school reform advocates, allowing the city to become a kind of petri dish for numerous groups to implement their particular educational strategies.
Many in the country now look to the city as a hallmark of school choice best exemplified by the wide variety of operators and operating approaches within the charter schools umbrella. Voucher programs are the newest development to expand, with the most recent school reform legislation enabling more students across Louisiana to attend private schools at taxpayer expense.
Proponents of these newer methods tout higher test scores, more access to specialty curricula and the arts, plus greater parental involvement in making sure that their children have access to the best quality schools.
Opponents point to an absence of widespread access to special needs education, less accountability for individual institutions and a greater likelihood that children of less involved parents may fall through the cracks.
NABJ and its New Orleans Association of Black Journalists (NOABJ) local chapter bring together local educational advocates on both sides of the debate to share their thoughts in a public forum examining the pros and cons of this still-evolving school system.
Dr. Lance Hill
Dr. Lance Hill is the Executive Director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research, a tolerance education and race relations research center based at Tulane University in New Orleans. He is also a member of New Orleans Education Equity Roundtable. Hill holds a Ph.D. in history from Tulane University, where he has taught US History and Intercultural Communication. His scholarly research field is the history of race relations, the radical right and ethnic group trauma. He is the author of The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and The Civil Rights Movement (University of North Carolina Press, 2004).
Hill was a community organizer for fifteen years before embarking on an academic career. From 1989-1992, he served as Executive Director of the Louisiana Coalition against Racism and Nazism (LCARN), the grass roots organization that he co-founded to spearhead opposition to former Klansman David Duke's Senate and Gubernatorial campaigns. The New Orleans Times-Picayune credited LCARN under Hill's leadership for having "much of the responsibility" for Duke's defeat in the 1990 Senate campaign.In 1993, Hill co-founded the Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane University, a race and ethnic relations center. The Institute's tolerance education program-the most comprehensive project of its kind in the South-has provided training to more than 4,000 teachers from 785 schools in the Deep South.
Kira Orange Jones
Kira Orange Jones was elected last Fall 2011 to serve on the District 2 seat for BESE, Louisiana's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that has the constitutional and statutory authority to make policy decisions that govern the public education system of the state. BESE also exercises budgetary responsibility for all funds appropriated or allocated by the state for schools under its jurisdiction. She moved to Louisiana originally to teach fourth grade at Eden Park Elementary in Baton Rouge.
Ms. Jones has served for five years as the executive director of Teach For America in Greater New Orleans. Since 2007 she has overseen its growth from providing 70 teachers at 30 local schools to more than 500 teachers at more than 120 area schools today.
At one point Ms. Jones served as Teach For America's Vice-President of New Site Development, where she worked with school districts in over 10 states to recruit teachers. She also relied upon her background in film studies to produce a documentary entitled Expecting Men about developing character & leadership among three young boys.
Eric B. Lewis
Eric B. Lewis is the State Director for the Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Options (LaBAEO). LaBAEO is a mobilization initiative of the BAEO based in Washington, DC. As state director, Eric is responsible for building statewide support for expanding parental choice options for educating low-income black children in Louisiana.
As a community advocate in Baton Rouge, he currently serves as the Board President of the Baton Rouge Black Chamber of Commerce. In addition to the Chamber, Eric currently or previously served on the board of several other local organizations, including the Dean's Advisory Council for LSU's E.J. Ourso College of Business, Advisory Board of YWCA, Advisory Board of Desire Street Academy, Riz-Up Louisiana, Forum 35 and the Baton Rouge Branch of the NAACP.
A native of Baton Rouge, LA, Eric holds a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Southern University and a MBA from Louisiana State University. He is also an alumnus of multiple leadership development programs including Leadership Greater Baton Rouge and the Duke-Southern University Effective Leadership Institute which has allowed him to travel to Africa on two occasions.
Karran Harper Royal
Karran Harper Royal speaks as a very engaged public school parent who is concerned by the lack of real reform in the current education reform movement. Ms. Harper Royal is affiliated with the following organizations: Parents Across America, Research on Reforms, The New Orleans Education Equity Roundtable, Coalition for Community Schools and Coalition for Louisiana Public Education. She works for Pyramid Community Parent Resource Center.
Her work with the Gentilly Civic Improvement Association's Education Committee helped lead to the creation of the Greater Gentilly High School, one of five new schools to be rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina.
News anchor Norman Robinson has lived in the Crescent City for 32 years and has spent the last 20 in the WDSU newsroom. Robinson is the main anchor on WDSU News at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. also the host and moderator of The Hot Seat for WDSU, the NBC network affiliate in New Orleans.
PARTNERSHIP w/ Place Matters
To ground the discussion in data, The Orleans Place Matters Team will premiere the Orleans Parish Health Equity Report. The report highlights the educational determinants of health. Place Matters is an initiative of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
INTERVIEW REQUESTS: Nicondra Norwood, NOABJ President Tel #504-377-8949 or Email: email@example.com
Warren Bell, Jr. has been a well-established presence in broadcast journalism and local media for nearly 40 years as a news anchor and talk show host, in addition to producing numerous acclaimed documentaries. He became New Orleans' first African American weekday prime-time TV news anchor in 1977, and covered all of the city's milestone events over the years. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: New Orleans Agenda stock image.
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