The New Orleans Alliance for Diversity and Excellence: Why Diverse Leadership Matters for New Orleans’ Schools
The transformation of New Orleans public schools is often told like this: Before Katrina, the school system was failing due in part to leadership and low quality teachers. After the storm, teachers were let go and public schools were rebuilt with an influx of new talent and a new commitment to accountability.
But this is not the whole story. While numerous changes ushered in after Katrina were positive, such as students making significant academic gains and graduation rates this turnover of teachers and principals caused a profound shift in who is teaching and leading public schools in New Orleans. Before the storm, about 80% of teachers in New Orleans public schools were African American; today it is less than 50%. With the exodus of these African American educators, our public schools lost a sense of history and culture that was difficult to replace. Mr. Lee Green an ADE member states,” that after Katrina the landscape of New Orleans education changed, but is encouraged by the growth of New Orleans students.”
While the educators teaching in New Orleans schools are different today, very little has changed about the students who attend our public schools. During the 2012-13 school year, 88% of the students in RSD and New Orleans public schools were African American and 82% received free or reduced price lunch. These numbers are largely the same as before 2004, although the concentration of African American students is higher (95%) in RSD schools than in Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) schools (62%).
The Alliance for Diversity and Excellence a new organization with 35 leaders of color who serve as teachers, principals, senior level executives and education sector leaders in New Orleans aims is to increase the number of Black male teachers and leaders of color on every level and foster a professional development community for all leaders throughout New Orleans. The average leaders in the ADE range between 7-20 years of experience in New Orleans education sector today. This aspect truly matters states Robert Hill ADE member,” because our students particularly our boys are in crisis. Virtually 99% of all the juveniles arrested in New Orleans last year were African American, yet less than 2% of the leaders in our public schools are black men”. Today more than ever, our students need role models who can provide a vision of what is possible with education. Our students deserve diversity and representation for everyone.
Sean Goodwin and ADE member states, “we are building connections among leaders of color in New Orleans schools through a new organization called the Alliance for Diversity and Excellence (ADE). The goal of the ADE is to recruit, train, and provide professional development for leaders throughout New Orleans to improve the academic performance and social and emotional needs of students.”
By recognizing the talent in our midst and raising up more leaders of color to take on leadership roles in New Orleans schools, we aim to create a pipeline of educational leaders of color, build support for charter schools in the urban community and share best practices for closing the achievement gap for public school students in New Orleans.
The ADE is a new effort, but our strength comes from the legions of passionate, high quality educators in New Orleans who have worked to make a difference for the children of this wonderful city, both before Katrina and in the years following.
The students and families of New Orleans have big dreams for their future. By working together, we can bring our best ideas, teamwork and commitment to make these dreams a reality.
Lastly, the ADE will host a panel discussion with the 100 Black men of Greater New Orleans centered on how schools and community can work together to protect students from the streets of New Orleans, January 24, 2017 at Dooky Chase restaurant starting at 6:00 pm and will host an awards breakfast February 11, 2017 to highlight leaders in education.
This piece was written by Lamont Douglas, Amanda Aiken and Jamar Mckneely