New Orleans parents speak candidly about the city’s public schools

What do New Orleans parents think about the city’s public schools? Last week we had an opportunity to hear them first-hand during a panel discussion on the state of public education, 10 years post-Katrina.

The panel of eight parents, whose children attend New Orleans charter schools, tackled topics ranging from enrollment and accountability, to school governance and parental involvement.

They were in agreement that New Orleans public education has improved in the past decade, but must continue to move toward excellence.

“Pre-Katrina there were no options,” said Kimya Bishop-Cole, mother of two children who attend charter schools. “Your child had to go to a district school. It might be close to your home, but you might end up with a failing school.”

When discussing New Orleans’ all-charter public school landscape, many parents say they are more connected to their school’s governance.

“Now you can go to a charter board meeting and voice your concerns. Charter schools have made it more accessible to parents,” said Roshand Miller, a mother of three children in public schools.

Parents had mixed feelings about OneApp, the unified enrollment system where families can sign up to attend a majority of the city’s public schools and private schools that participate in the Louisiana Scholarship Program.

Isiss Donate, a single mother of two, tried unsuccessfully to enroll her son in a neighborhood school. “There are two ‘A’ schools in my neighborhood and he didn’t get into either. If I live here, he should be able to go to school here.”

Miller said it is less about the enrollment process and more about the overall quality of schools. “If they were all ‘A’ and ‘B’ schools, you wouldn’t be so frustrated when didn’t get your first choice.”

Panelists agreed that all schools need to be at the same level of the handful of New Orleans schools that are perceived as excellent by most parents.

“We shouldn’t have to drive across town and fight to get our children into the Lusher, Audubon and Baby Ben. They should all be Lusher, Audubon and Baby Ben,” Miller added.

Parents recognized that the level of parental involvement has increased since Hurricane Katrina. “Honestly, (OneApp) made us better as parents because we are doing more research and are able to see where our children are going to school,” said Bishop-Cole. “We are looking at (school) ratings. Before, we didn’t have that option.”

While parents recognize the overall improvement of public education in post-Katrina New Orleans, they are not content.

“It’s a new climate,” said Lamont Douglas, who has children in three charter schools. “Parents are going to have to come together to make all of our schools good and get involved in their children’s education.”


NOLA PARENTS PERSPECTIVE: A Conversation About New Orleans Public Education 10 Years Post-Katrina presented by the Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Options, Orleans Public Education Network (OPEN), Stand for Children Louisiana, and the Urban League of Greater New Orleans – Video: