New Schools for New Orleans presents Excellence in Teaching Awards _lowres

Photo provided by New Schools for New Orleans—Winners in the Excellence in Teaching Awards from New Schools for New Orleans, and finalists in the competition, include, front row from left, Patrick Dobard, superintendent of the Recovery School District; Kristi Walton; Kristen Weddle; Nicole Mayeux; Lynette Henry; and Henderson Lewis Jr., superintendent of the Orleans Parish Public Schools. In the second row are Mia Rotondo; Ivory Clark; Lytanya Wilbon; Warnett Craig; Sylvia Crier; and Sarah Usdin, founder of New Schools for New Orleans. In the third row are Mary Landrieu, Brittany Smith, Hannah Rich and Whitney Wiegand. In the fourth row are Alex Bell, Hannah Bunis, Mariko Kawate, Tamara Durant, Charles Harrison, Sophia Roy and Orleans Parish School Board member John Brown.

Today, I have the honor of presenting the Orleans Parish School Board with the Unification Transition Plan, which outlines a process for unifying all Orleans Parish public schools under local oversight by July 1, 2018. This plan is a historic opportunity to re-imagine our school district as the first of its kind in the nation — a district of nearly all charter schools authorized by a locally elected board and dedicated to empowering families and educators, ensuring equity and dramatically improving student outcomes.

Over the past several months, the OPSB and Recovery School District have worked together to develop this plan for the unification of schools. In an effort to be as collaborative and transparent as possible, we engaged with more than 500 people, including the Unification Advisory Committee, Task Forces of educators and experts, and the broader community — all of whom have significantly impacted the plan presented today.

Unification calls for the OPSB to be the authorizer for all public schools in New Orleans. This means we will plan for new schools across the city based on the needs of our students, and will hold schools to high standards through a clear system — all while schools are empowered to make most of the decisions about how to run their school. It also means we will have the authority to make hard, informed decisions when needed, including when to hold schools accountable and when to close or turn around schools failing to meet standards.

A unified OPSB will be financially sustainable and our vision for the central office budget is like no other district. Our proposed budget is $20 million — only 4 percent of total public education funding in New Orleans. Half will fund services directly supporting students and families and promoting equity. One example is EnrollNOLA, our universal enrollment system that facilitates school choice, along with a handful of other programs serving some of our students with the greatest needs, from severe mental and behavioral health issues to youth in secure care. The other half of the proposed budget will help a limited central office team lead key systemwide work.

We know there is more work to be done in the realm of citywide services. There are new and emerging priorities in areas like early childhood, career and technical education and behavioral health. We expect to continue conversations with the community to ensure resources are aligned with what the community values.

OPSB has a clear view of the work that needs to be done over the next two years to make unification a reality. This plan incorporates clear, quarterly milestones which we believe will help our community hold us accountable for progress. In short, we are ready.

Henderson Lewis Jr.

superintendent of schools, Orleans Parish School Board

New Orleans