Nov. 30, 2005
The State of Louisiana seizes control over 102 New Orleans Public Schools, including John McDonogh Sr. High School, in legislation known at Act 35.
Spring and Summer 2006
John McDonogh community members and former faculty members meet across the street from John McDonogh at the Musician’s Union to press for the re-opening of John McDonogh as a public school.
John McDonogh re-opens under the RSD. Students from John McDonogh, as well as many students from most of the city’s pre-Katrina district schools: Alcee Fortier, Walter L. Cohen, Booker T. Washington, George W. Carver, L.B. Landry, Abramson, etc. enroll. In addition, students from magnet schools who did not return to the city in time to re-enroll in their pre-Katrina school, come to John McDonogh.
Teachers report that John McDonogh’s class sizes are as large as 50+ students to 1 teacher.
Oct. – Nov. 2006
Downtown Neighborhood Improvement Association (DNIA) Education Committee, including many of the John McDonogh Sr. High School Steering Committee (JMSHSSC) members, and the Fyre Youth Squad hold rallies on the front steps of John McDonogh and outside of Cohen High School.
DNIA Education Committee, including many of the JMSHSSC members, and the Fyre Youth Squad lead the “Take It to the Top” rally at the BESE meeting in Baton Rouge. Students from at least five high schools in New Orleans attend the rally, including more than fifty students from John McDonogh. The Fyre Youth Squad’s demands:
RSD re-opens several of the pre-Katrina district schools for grades 9 through 12 (Cohen’s 9th grade had re-opened in the middle of the previous year), which relieves overcrowding at John McDonogh. Many students return to their neighborhood schools, but some students and parents choose to make John McDonogh their home.
Jim Blew of the Walton Family Foundation visits John McDonogh and meets with the DNIA Education Committee.
90 percent of John McDonogh’s senior class graduates.
US Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan visits John McDonogh.
To make room for KIPP Leadership Academy and KIPP Renaissance High School, which were opening with 5th and 9th grades only, the RSD, under Superintendent Paul Vallas, unexpectedly closes Frederick Douglass High School, which the district was in the process of “phasing-out.” The RSD transfers Douglass’ eleventh and twelfth graders in need of summer school to John McDonogh.
A DNIA member submits a letter of intent to charter John McDonogh.
A contingent of DNIA brings the CEO of Collegiate Academies, Ben Marcovitz, to present a charter school plan to John McDonogh community members. Faculty, alumni and community members express discontent over Marovitz’s intentions and DNIA pulls its letter of intent.
RSD removes the Advanced Placement program from John McDonogh.
BESE holds a RSD Governance Public Hearing at McDonogh 35 Sr. High School in New Orleans
According to BESE’s official minutes:
[State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek] was required by law to make a recommendation to BESE regarding what to do with schools after an initial five year operational period in the Recovery School District. Mr. Pastorek stated that by law the board is conducting this hearing for public comments. He would make the final recommendation to BESE in December after taking into account public comments.
All representatives from the John McDonogh community speak against the chartering of John McDonogh: Kenneth Gill of the John McDonogh Alumni Association; Sandra Ewell of the John McDonogh Steering Committee; and Angelina and Tanzania Elder. John McDonogh representatives also speak in support of local governance and in opposition to the RSD Governance Plan.
“Digger” Phelps speaks in support of a culinary high school and offered construction of a fully equipped kitchen at no charge to the receiving school.
Representatives from John White’s “Trusted Community Organizations,” the New Orleans Business Council and Citizens for One Greater New Orleans, speak in support of the RSD governance plan. While, the Orleans Public Education Network (OPEN) stressed “reconciliation in the community.”
Against the wishes of the alumni, neighbors and teachers, the RSD allows ReNew Schools to move an alternative high school for over-aged students into the 1st floor of John McDonogh.
Aug. 29, 2011
Alumni and community members hold “New Orleans Public School Reform: Broken Promises” rally on the front steps of John McDonogh.
RSD Superintendent John White gives John McDonogh’s new principal a six week timeline to create a school plan, but before the John McDonogh Planning Committee had the time to submit its plan, they learn that the decision has already been made, and that the school will be operated by the California charter management operator, Future Is Now Schools.Fake Community Engagement protest outside of John McDonogh.
RSD announces that Future Is Now Schools (FINS), a national charter management organization based in California, will be taking over John McDonogh.
RSD Superintendent John White, along with Coach Digger Phelps of MSNBC, holds a press conference in John McDonogh’s gymnasium pledging $35 million dollars in FEMA funds for the renovation of John McDonogh.
John McDonogh’s Student Government Association holds “Students have Voices” rally on the front steps to protest the firing of their teachers and the FINS takeover.
FINS takes over John McDonogh.
At a FINS board meeting, John McDonogh’s parents, alumni, former faculty members, community members, educators and activists, including many John McDonogh Steering Committee members, express opposition to a preview to a reality series filmed at John McDonogh and labeling of John McDonogh as “one of the most dangerous schools in America.”
OWN releases “Blackboard Wars.”
The John McDonogh Advisory Committee, includes several members of the John McDonogh Steering Committee, writes an open letter to Mitch Landrieu, Oprah Winfrey, Eddie Barbini and Jeff Kuntz (the producers of “Blackboard Wars”), Steve Barr, and the John McDonogh Community critiquing “Blackboard Wars” and the labeling of John McDonogh students.
The legislative auditor’s office releases reports showing FINS has a $1 million discrepancy.
“So the toxins were floating in the air– white mold, black mold, mold infestation. The rats [were] just unbelievable…I contacted John White. I met with him. I met with Paul Vallas. I met with the health department, the state on the federal level, you name it to get them to close this building or get these children out of this building. They knew it was bad. They knew it was bad. I wrote a letter to the president, and I told him that I wanted somebody from his jurisdiction to come down here to investigate the money. The money was there, but they didn’t want to do anything with the money, and our children were suffering under these conditions, thank you.” –Angelina Elder (2014), parent during the FINS takeover, alumna of John McDonogh and JMSHSSC member
The RSD announces it is dissolving the school.
After bringing the School Performance Score down to a 9.3 out of 150, FINS leaves Louisiana.
Former students, parents, alumni, educators, neighbors and pastors from the John McDonogh community reconvene and form the John McDonogh Senior High School Steering Committee (JMSHSSC).
The JMSHSSC holds a Town Hall at Community Book Center to develop a community-based mission and vision and to invite alumni, educators, pastors, parents, former students, neighbors and activists to join the committee. The JMSHSSC establishes itself with a 19 member board.
“The John McDonogh Sr. High School Steering Committee is a post-Katrina, non-profit, public education advocacy organization founded by former students, parents, employees, alumni, friends and public school supporters. The Committee seeks the immediate transfer of John McDonogh High School and $40 million in FEMA construction funds from Louisiana’s Board of Elementary & Secondary Education and its Recovery School District to the Orleans Parish School Board. More specifically, the Steering Committee envisions John McDonogh Sr. High School as a ‘direct-run,’ college preparatory and career-readiness high school under the legal authority and control of the Orleans Parish School Board. With the strategic use of local/state/federal funds and business partnerships, John McDonogh Sr. High School may also serve as a 21st Century Community Learning Center.”
June 17, 2014
JMSHSSC and supporters attend the BESE Admin. & Finance Committee meeting in Baton Rouge to press for the immediate return of John McDonogh to the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB).
BESE President Chas Roemer tells BESE board member Carolyn Hill that she is out of order for making a motion for the immediate return of John McDonogh.
JMSHSSC drafts a formal proposal requesting the return of the school.
OPSB passes Resolution 18-14 for the “return control of and to restore all rights and responsibilities of ownership in the John McDonogh High School facility to the OPSB in order to expand its capacity to provide high-quality education options for Orleans Parish students.”
Change.org petition for the immediate return of John McDonogh and the FEMA funds reaches close to 700 signatures.
July 31, 2014
BESE’s Committee of the Whole (RSD matters only) meeting at Lake Area High School in New Orleans
BESE board member, James Garvey of Metairie, states that he had been told it wasn’t in BESE’s power to transfer the school back, and so he asks the board to wait on a legal opinion.
Aug. 2, 2014
Attorney Willie Zanders writes a response to Garvey’s statement stating:
“The Louisiana Constitution of 1974—Article VIII Section 3 (A) specifies that BESE is created as a ‘corporate body’ whose function is to ‘supervise and control the public elementary and secondary schools and special schools under its jurisdiction,’ and it ‘shall have the power to supervise, manage, and operate or provide for the supervision, management, and operation of a public elementary or secondary school which has been determined to be failing.’ “
Aug. 12, 2014
BESE board member, Carolyn Hill, places John McDonogh on BESE’s Administration and Finance Committee meeting agenda as Item 6.4. JMSHSSC and John McDonogh supporters return to BESE in Baton Rouge.
“I requested the item to be placed on the agenda via community concerns and responses regarding to John McDonogh…And here is an opportunity where the community wants the school to return to OPSB. OPSB is the third parish in the state of Louisiana. They are doing tremendously well, academically… There are still a lot of schools that they’re continuing trying to rebuild, renovate or refurbish, and here is an opportunity to lighten their load and allow the return to OPSB, and to give the community a sense of letting their voices be heard.” — BESE board member Carolyn Hill
“I was a student at ‘John Mc,’ and I remember sitting in this exact same spot seven years ago asking for the exact same thing, asking that our school be ran by the Orleans Parish School [Board]… We had made plans. We had several meetings with you. We had protests. We did everything in our power to [make] our school better and because of it, we got pushed out… We had nothing that we needed, and now seven years later, I am still asking for my school to be returned back over to me, to my community, to my family. I should not have to sit up here and beg for something that belongs to me to be returned back to me… And you are going to have more generations coming here. But by tomorrow, I would like to be able to transfer my son back to a school that is owned by us, [so] I know I can go and check on him. I know I can go and make sure he’s doing his work right. I can work with the teachers. I can call the teachers. I want the culture back. I want to be able to know that there is a generation coming up behind me that has the best education, and it is not failing.” – Brianna O’Neal, Fyre Youth Squad and student at John McDonogh during the 2006-2007 school year
“I decided to put my two kids at John McDonogh for the last two years. Utter failure! And, Mr. White, I believe you owe that to me, if nobody else, because I worked with you. You said you wanted FINS. I said: ‘Okay, we can work with the charter group.’ They failed us. They did absolutely nothing but made money. And I worked with you personally. You didn’t say it was going to be a process; we’re going to see. We wanted to go to Orleans Parish School Board then, but I said: ‘Okay, we’re going to go charter.’ We didn’t really have an option at that time. Now, we do… We have two years to decide what we are going to do… We already know that Dana Peterson [former board member of FirstLine Schools and Future Is Now Schools and RSD’s current Deputy Superintendent of External Affairs] is working with the Clark alumni to bring FirstLine into John McDonogh. We already know that the decision is already being made– what they want John McDonogh to be… So I say: Give us the opportunity to go back to Orleans Parish to be successful because we have been failed [by the RSD] for nine years.” — Kenneth Gill, Sr., President of John McDonogh Sr. High School Alumni Association, JMSHSSC member
Aug. 13, 2014
BESE full board meeting Dr. Lottie Beebe offers a motion for the board to request the Attorney General’s interpretation of the legislation concerning BESE’s role in the return of schools. State Superintendent John White suggests an amended motion to seek an Attorney General opinion and appropriate jurisprudence of the board. BESE approves a resolution requesting that the President of BESE, Chas Roemer, requests an opinion from the Attorney General and report back to the board on the Attorney General’s response in October.
BESE board member, Carolyn Hill, makes the motion for the immediate return of John McDonogh to the OPSB. 4 out of the 10 present BESE board members affirm Hill’s motion: Hill, Beebe, Jane Smith and Walter Lee. BESE board members who oppose: Kira Orange-Jones, James Garvey, Chas Roemer and Holly Boffy, Connie Bradford and Dr. Judith Miranti.
Kira Orange-Jones, the elected BESE board representative of the neighborhood comprised of John McDonogh, makes an alternate motion, seconded by Dr. Judith Miranti, the director of the Division of Education and Counseling at Xavier University. The motion states that the Board request the RSD Superintendent:
- meet with the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) superintendent to analyze revenue, cost, student demographic projections, and facility and capacity needs of existing school programs in Orleans Parish to inform the RSD’s decision related to the use and control of the John McDonogh High School facility;
- pursue a process led by the OPSB officials to engage with Orleans Parish community members and the John McDonogh High School Steering Committee regarding the future use and control of the John McDonogh High School facility; and
- provide an update to the Board on this matter at the October 2014 Administration and Finance Committee meeting.
BESE passes Orange-Jones’ motion.
Aug. 25, 2014
JMSHSSC emails Nolan Marshall, Jr. and all OPSB members. The email contains Kira Orange-Jones’ motion, and it makes a formal request to establish an OPSB-led working groups to develop an operational plan for the requested return of John McDonogh. Marshall does not respond.
Aug. 29, 2014
JMSHSSC holds Bring Back “John Mac” Hurricane Katrina 9th Anniversary Rally and Candlelight vigil.
“We would like for our leadership to take control of our schools not to abject, not to turn over their responsibility. John Mac deserves your attention…We must prevail in this. Otherwise, we will slip into history. There will be no more public school in New Orleans– locally ran– because all of them will them be chartered. It is time to move back toward more local control, not less.” –Kwame Smith, educator and member of JMSHSSC, at the Bring Back “John Mac” Hurricane Katrina 9th Anniversary Rally
JMSHSSC emails Kira Orange-Jones to ask her availability to meet. Orange-Jones does not respond.
OPSB member notifies JMSHSSC that they will be on the next full board agenda.
Sept. 16, 2014
OPSB full board meeting – Establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee for John McDonogh is listed as an Action Item on the agenda. OPSB recommends that:
“The committee will include one member from the John McDonogh Steering Committee, OPSB District #7 Board Member Nolan Marshall, and Kira Orange Jones from the Louisiana Board of Elementary & Secondary Education. In addition, the ad hoc committee will reach out to organizations such as the Downtown Neighborhood Improvement Association, Esplanade Ridge, Micah Group, Urban League of Greater New Orleans, Orleans Public Education Network (OPEN), Stand for Children and the Business Council of New Orleans.”
OPSB passes the resolution that an Ad Hoc Committee for John McDonogh was to be formed with “3 steering committee members, 3 OPSB members, a RSD representative and Kira Orange-Jones.”
Sept. – Oct. 2014
Oct. 8, 2014
The OPSB, RSD, the Ad Hoc Committee for John McDonogh & the JMSHSSC hold their first community engagement forum.
Bright Moments facilitates John McDonogh’s Ad Hoc Community Meetings.
Oct. 11, 2014
OPSB, RSD & JMSHSSC hold a community engagement meeting..
Oct. 14, 2014
BESE Admin. & Finance meeting in Baton Rouge. JMSHSSC members and supporters speak in support of John McDonogh.
BESE President, Chas Roemer, neglects to request an Attorney General’s opinion.
Oct. 15, 2014
JMSHSSC returns to BESE’s full board meeting, along with the Ad Hoc Committee for John McDonogh, including 3 OPSB members, as well as the OPSB interim Superintendent, Stan Smith. John McDonogh Ad Hoc Committee submits the Community Engagement Report to BESE.
BESE board member, Carolyn Hill, makes the motion for the immediate return of John McDonogh. President of BESE, Chas Roemer, tells Hill that her motion is inappropriate.
Nov. 22, 2014
BESE Committee of the Whole meeting at Walker-Landry High School
Dr. Judith Miranti offers a motion to request that the Superintendent of the RSD make a Request For Proposal Applications for charters to apply for John McDonogh’s facility.
Dec. 16, 2014
JMSHSSC formerly submits a strategic academic plan to the OPSB. The JMSHSSC’s plan is based on the plan OPSB already has in place as well as the steering committee’s mission for a college and career preparatory, public high school.
6 charters apply for John McDonogh’s facility: Bricolage Academy, Encore Academy, FirstLine Schools, KIPP New Orleans, the Linda School and Morris Jeff Community School.
Jan. 8, 2015
The Attorney General releases his opinion stating:
“Based on the foregoing statutes, it is the opinion of this office that the RSD has the legal, authority to determine the current and proposed use and control of the John McDonogh High School facility in New Orleans and retains such control unless and until BESE votes to remove such use and control pursuant to La. RS. 17:10.7 (C).” [italics added]
Jan. 9, 2015
JMSHSSC member and former administrator of John McDonogh, Attorney Shawon Bernard, along with Attorney Willie Zanders, file a legal injunction in response to BESE’s violation of Louisiana’s Open Meetings laws at the committee meeting at Walker-Landry High School.
Jan. 13, 2015
JMSHSSC members travel to the BESE Administration and Finance meeting in Baton Rouge to respond to the Attorney General’s opinion. BESE member, Dr. Lottie Beebe, states:
“The New Orleans community did their due diligence. They had community meetings, and they prepared a proposal. And then they were sucker-punched at a Committee of the Whole meeting when they didn’t even realize that this item would be added to the agenda, and I don’t even know if it was added to the agenda because we were just supposed to receive a report. But someone on the Committee made the motion, and it was approved to go out and receive a request for proposals.”
Feb. 13, 2015
The Friday before Mardi Gras at 9:00 p.m., BESE releases the agenda for the February 25th Committee of the Whole meeting stating: “[T]he RSD is empowered to define the current and proposed use and control of the school facilities that it governs.” The agenda announces that BESE will make the names of the selected charter operator for John McDonogh by February 23rd. There is no mention of what entities have been on the selection committee.
Feb. 23, 2015
The Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans issues a Temporary Restraining Order preventing state education officials, their agents, and anyone acting on their behalf, including Mr. Patrick Dobard, Mr. John White, and Mr. Charles Roemer, from appointing or contracting with a new charter school operator for John McDonogh Sr. High School.
March 20, 2015
The Civil District Court of New Orleans holds a preliminary injunction hearing for a concerned citizen petitioning the RSD.
March 24, 2015
Judge Sidney Cates III (former law partner to the father in law of the RSD Deputy Superintendent, Dana Peterson) rules in favor of the Recovery School District.
April 22, 2015
May 6, 2015
Residents of New Orleans, including several individual members and supporters of the JMSHSSC, speak at the state of Louisiana’s House Education Committee meeting in support of HB 166. This bill would have required the return of non-failing schools to local school boards. The Committee approves the bill, but the full House rejects it.
June 8, 2015
Attorneys successfully appeal Judge Sidney Cates III’s decision to the State of Louisiana’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal.