Over the years, as a classroom teacher, a state-level educational administrator, a superintendent, and today as the CEO of NSNO, it has remained abundantly clear to me that the experts in New Orleans education are students and educators themselves.

I have had the privilege to connect with these experts frequently in my various roles. Now, I have a platform through which to share those connections with our broader community.

Over the past few weeks, educators, stakeholders and now students from across New Orleans have joined me on WBOK 1230 AM for conversations at 12:30pm on Mondays. I learn so much each time, and I am so grateful for the chance to engage in this way. Our teachers, school leaders, CMO and nonprofit leaders, and students are brilliant and dedicated. If you want to better understand education in New Orleans, you will want to listen to them. Below, I share links and highlights from our conversations, as well as a preview of conversations to come.

Listen to Our Recent Shows Here!

From our conversation on May 4 with Taylor LeBlanc and Josiah Fassitt:

“In five years, I see myself in the classroom. People assume that the teacher provides all of the knowledge, but that is not true—teaching is so humbling because [my students] teach me so much every day.”

“I have to thank my English IV teacher, Mr. Warren. I appreciate him because there were high expectations and real emotion he had for me. He taught me that there was a star in me that I had to recognize for myself.”

From our conversation on April 27 with Nicole Saulny and Aqua Stovall:

“I am rejuvenated every day as a school leader by the learning I can see happening in our students. Year after year, I have the energy and passion to do this because it is so inspiring to witness students growing.”

“I told Jay [Altman, former CEO of FirstLine Schools,] that the city didn’t have a good pipeline for high-quality special educators. His response was that it was my job to create one—at the time I was running a school but I knew that eventually, I had to do it.”

From our conversation on April 20 with Cate Swinburn and Sharon Clark:

“I am drawing my greatest hope from our young people—their incredible talent and resilience. Employers look for creativity, resilience, problem-solving, communication—and I see those qualities embodied every day in the young people in our high schools.”

“It was tear-jerking to celebrate our seniors and to let them know that we truly miss them. Since they can’t come to us, our staff had to go to each of them to let them know that.”

From our conversation on April 13 with Rhonda Kalifey-Aluise and Melanie Askew: 

“This time will make us all think more deeply about what it means to really uphold equity as a value across our schools.”

“We have learned that our students really like the video lessons that we are putting on YouTube, and this has encouraged us to continue doing this in the fall so that students can keep learning from home as well as at school.”

From our conversation on April 6 with Jamar McKneely and Mervin Jackson: 

“I have to shout out our parents. We know that they are at home and many of them are working while their children are transitioning to distance learning—these parents and their kids who are signing on to learn every day are inspiring us with their passion and commitment.”

“We communicate hope—we tell our children that [these times] are an opponent that we have to tackle. We tell our students that they are already prepared for these challenges and these times will further prepare them for challenges in life.”


In the weeks to come, I am honored to have the chance to interview some “Education Heroes” and members of the Class of 2020. Every week through the end of the school year, the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools (LAPCS) and NSNO are honoring “Education Heroes”—educators who are going above and beyond for their students during COVID-19 school closures. You can check out the LAPCS/NSNO Education Heroes videos that have been released so far here and here and tune in every Monday in May to hear from an Education Hero on the show.

On May 11, I will speak with Destiny Davis, a senior at Eleanor McMain Secondary School, and Elisa Hunt, a special educator at Booker T. Washington High School. Please join us in these conversations, and take a moment to listen to the great ones I have shared above.


Patrick Dobard
New Schools for New Orleans

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