High-Quality Options and Social Capital for Black Children in New Orleans
Jonas Perriott, father of a beautiful, wide-eyed three-year-old daughter, says that high-quality school options are scarce in New Orleans public schools. His best bet is to start now and get as many shots at the target until she gets in. So that means applying to highly selective Pre-K programs (like the one at Audubon Charter School) now until she is able to get in.
In the conversations I have had with families, there’s a common theme: In a post-Katrina, decentralized school system, what Black parents mourn the most is not being knowledgeable about where the best schools in the city are and how to enroll their children.
High-quality schools have always been selective in New Orleans—even before the storm. The difference is that native Black New Orleanians taught and held leadership positions within those schools, so word-of-mouth carried information into the homes of Black families.
This information source is no longer an option. Families have lost their ability to navigate the system to make it work for their children.
Black families need clear and accessible information to help them maneuver through the school system and understand enrollment processes and school options. High-quality schools are very selective and require students and their families to understand a deeply complex system of entrance matrices, tiered systems, student entrance exams and school lotteries.
This has to change. Our children and communities deserve a shot. They need a shot at life and the same type of academic preparation that their affluent, white counterparts have.
Nearly 10 years later, we have yet to see a more effective method of getting information out to our families. Parents like Jonas rely on relationships with school leaders and teachers to get information about the enrollment process; they see this as the key for their child to get a chance at attending a school like Audubon, Ben Franklin or Hynes, which are some of the highest performing public schools in the city.
Let’s be honest, if the whole city had this type of access there still wouldn’t be enough high-quality seats for our children. Black parents in New Orleans need more options for their children. This is the bigger problem and the demand we must fight to meet.
In the meantime, if the church or the native teachers are no longer the vehicle to high-quality schools, who and what are the vehicle? And how can we use resources in education reform to help us improve communication between schools and Black families?