Orleans Parish School Board Superintendent Celebrates 1 Year In Office

NEW ORLEANS – On Friday, March 18, 2016, the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) celebrated the one-year anniversary of Superintendent of Schools Dr. Henderson Lewis Jr.

         OPSB reps said Lewis established a 180-day plan upon his arrival at OPSB, and immediately addressed governance, organization structure, operations and finance, school achievement and community and public relations. Seeking to fulfill the Orleans Parish public schools’ mission to provide all students the opportunity to achieve academic excellence and to become productive citizens in the future, Lewis has worked tirelessly to implement proactive changes.

         “I am pleased and honored to serve the city, families and students of New Orleans,” Lewis said. “The past year has been both rewarding and challenging, and I am truly proud of the accomplishments we have made over the past year in furtherance of our pledge to provide a quality education to every student, at every school, every day. I look forward to seeing what the remainder of the 2015-16 school year brings.”

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         OPSB reps said Lewis has reorganized the OPSB central office and reviewed all policies, including those for charter schools, in preparation for the return of schools to the OPSB. Lewis updated pre-existing OPSB policies and established new ones, including policy HA, which created equal and consistent rules for governing charter school operations. To further strengthen the central office’s ability to provide high-quality support to its schools, a search for a new chief financial officer has been launched. 

         This year, five charter schools elected to begin the process to transfer to the oversight of the OPSB for the 2016-17 school year: Pierre A. Capdau Charter School, Lake Area New Tech Early College High School, KIPP Renaissance High School, Mary D. Coghill Elementary and Fannie C. Williams Charter School.

         “The interest of five organizations to return is a huge milestone for the OPSB and myself, personally,” Lewis said. “The confidence shown in our administration by these charter school boards demonstrates we are moving in the right direction to achieve the unification of all New Orleans public schools under local governance. Our administration is working diligently to showcase OPSB’s ability to support operational needs of all schools and make the unification of all Orleans Parish public schools a reality.”

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         A new initiative for the Superintendent, Lewis hosted town hall meetings for parents, teachers, administrators and community members in their respective school districts with OPSB board members throughout the fall. During these meetings, Lewis addressed remarks about his administration and vision for the future of local public schools.

         An experienced leader in both traditional school districts and charter school organizations, Lewis continues to emphasize the OPSB’s obligation to provide the youth of New Orleans with opportunities and valuable resources needed to succeed, OPSB reps said.

         “Over the course of the 2015-16 school year, several of our schools have received brand new, state-of-the-art facilities,” Lewis said. “Welcoming students across the city to their new homes over the past year has only reinforced OPSB’s commitment in making our students the top priority and providing them with the opportunities to learn and thrive in the best environments possible.”

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         One such school, McDonogh 35 Senior High School, kicked off the current school year at its new 16-acre campus. Lewis envisions McDonogh 35 being a premier New Orleans high school consistently meeting the educational needs of all students. OPSB reps said he has enacted a plan to strengthen the organizational structure of McDonogh 35, including phasing out the middle school academy. This process began with eliminating the seventh grade in the EnrollNOLA 2016-17 application process. McDonogh 35 will begin the 2017-18 school year solely as a high school.

         In an effort to ensure a strong school culture, the enrollment for McDonogh 35 for next school year has been limited to approximately 1,000 students. The OPSB is engage in a national search for a school leader to launch the next chapter of this important school’s rich history.

         “We remain confident that the hard work and dedication of McDonogh 35’s administration will stabilize the school and ready it for the next phase of the OPSB’s mission of transitioning our schools into exemplary models of student success,” Lewis said.

         Most recently, Lewis collaborated in the effort toward an equitable system of schools in Orleans Parish by participating in the Louisiana Department of Education’s (LDE) student funding formula working group. On Tuesday, March 15, 2016, the OPSB board unanimously voted to adopt a resolution authorizing Lewis to distribute MFP funds to its schools based on the Superintendent’s assessment of student needs and to allocate such funds appropriately, as authorized by law and according to processes to be determined by the Superintendent in accordance with law.

         As the end of the 2015-16 school year nears, OPSB reps said Lewis is looking forward to building on the successes of his first year in office and sharing his administration’s goals and priorities for the 2016-17 school year. These goals and priorities will be shared publically in the coming months.

         “As we celebrate the many accomplishments of the past year and look ahead to next year, we must remember there is much work still to be done. As Superintendent, I take seriously my responsibility to provide students with the resources they need to graduate ready for college, their careers and life,” Lewis said.

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