Dear NOLA Education Family,
As a little boy riding my bike up and down Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans, I never imagined I would serve in various roles in our city and state, be it as a classroom teacher, government employee, superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District, or in my current role as CEO of New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO). I could not have anticipated all the phenomenal students and families I would get to know, and all they would teach me. I could not have foreseen getting to collaborate with the finest educators in our country, or that I would help grow high quality schools and ensure more children have access to them.
For thirty-two years now, I have had the immense privilege of working in education in Louisiana. I have gotten to work with people who are passionate about public schools and who know that students deserve no less than true excellence. I have worked with people who don’t just talk about the need for equity, but who fight for it and build it every day. Together, we have confronted the most complex, nuanced, and hard problems in education—and we have found powerful solutions. I am grateful for each of these people, and to the families who trusted us to play a part in educating their children.
Today, I am writing to share that in March 2022, after almost five years at NSNO, I will be transitioning from my role as CEO. I am extremely proud of the work we have done in supporting our schools, and I am equally as proud of the amazing team we have and their steadfast commitment to continuing our work in the city.
During my tenure, that great team made significant progress toward our goal of excellent schools for all students. Together, we:
- Raised more than $72.5 million in funding to support the public school students of New Orleans.
- Solidified NSNO’s strategic priorities around policy, portfolio, curriculum, and talent to address the root causes of the challenges in the New Orleans educational landscape. In 2019, we added an additional strategic priority, communications, to provide clear education data, share the successes and challenges of our system of schools, and offer platforms for voices across our community.
- Launched the Instructional Quality Initiative, which supported the adoption of high-quality, standards-aligned curricula by 86% of New Orleans public schools and provided $1.5 million in grants to help schools with the transition.
- Created the Executive Education Experience (E3) Fellowship, The Principal Collaborative, and the Novice Leader Academy to develop school and network leaders in our city.
- Helped hire over 400 teachers through TeachNewOrleans.net (soon to be The New Orleans Teacher Job Board) and brought 230 new teachers to New Orleans through partnerships with teacher preparation programs. NSNO was also recently awarded a $14.3 million federal grant to address teacher recruitment and retention over the next three years.
- Worked at the state level to preserve the key components of Act 91, which is the foundation for our system of autonomous schools, while also working with NOLA-PS on local policy efforts to improve their policies in further support of student success.
- Funded the expansion, transformation, or launch of 15 schools, impacting 10,000 students.
- Communicated up-to-date and accurate information about education in New Orleans, including correcting misperceptions about how the system functions through our Mythbusters series, accurately communicating the latest COVID-19 updates through our COVID Clarity series, and sharing the voices of those most affected by our work through student, teacher, and school leader profiles.
- Responded rapidly to the changing needs of our education community over the last two years. For example, to address digital access related to the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020 we launched the New Orleans Technology Access Fund, which quickly raised $700,000 to invest in laptops, smart tablets, and home internet connectivity for charter school students.
We still have a lot to accomplish for our young people in New Orleans. With that in mind, I am excited to share what’s next for me, which will allow me to continue to support our students and public education.
In April 2022, I will join the City Fund as a partner, through which I will directly support New Orleans’ education landscape. City Fund is an organization that partners with local leaders to create innovative public school systems. They believe that all children should have fair access to quality schools, educators should have the flexibility to meet the diverse needs of students, education leaders should reflect the communities they serve, and families most impacted by the system should have the power to change it. I look forward to bringing my expertise to the organization, and I also look forward to learning more as I support education champions around the country. In this new position, I look forward to influencing the allocation of resources to educators nationwide, including in New Orleans, who are leading the nation in this work. I have been in education for over three decades, and I am committed to this for years to come.
So, this is not a goodbye, but merely “I’ll see you again soon” from a different vantage point.
NSNO’s Board, led by Board Chair Jessica Peña, expects to name my successor in early 2022, with sufficient time to ensure an overlapping and smooth transition. I’m confident they will find a strong, committed leader to continue the great work of NSNO.
We must keep moving onward, together, to improve the life outcomes of our children. I know there are countless young people in New Orleans who haven’t even dreamed of the possibilities before them, just as I hadn’t on those bike rides down Esplanade. Together with their families and educators, we help those children not just dream bright futures, but see them. I remain committed to this work, and I am humbled to play a small role in this effort.
As always, I remain for the children,