reports from a local parent monitoring public education in New Orleans

Entries for July, 2008

OPSB District 3 Campaign Announcement and Platform

Hello, I am Amy Lafont and I am running for Orleans Parish School Board District Three, which includes the Lakeview, Gentilly, Mid-City, and Bayou St. John neighborhoods of New Orleans. I am a 10th generation Cajun/New Orleanian, public schools parent, professional facilities consultant, and active community volunteer.

My top 10 priorities as an Orleans Parish School Board member are to:

1. Assure that every child in Orleans Parish has access to the opportunities, resources and support he or she needs to succeed.

2. Offer students training in skilled trades and life/resiliency skills, in addition to college prep and the arts, to end the school-to-prison pipeline.

3. Recognize, value and apply the expertise of local stakeholders and community partners to address our issues.

4. Insist on more public input in budgeting and financial matters.

5. Ensure families have access to quality neighborhood schools in every district.

6. Institute meaningful charter school monitoring to empower families to make informed decisions.

7. Promote students’ voices and participation in decision-making.

8. Re-establish adult education and literacy programs.

9. Preserve, renovate and revitalize our structurally solid buildings to sustainable standards.

10. Earn back local governance of our public schools through implementing best practices, establishing accountable and transparent system-wide management, and maintaining fiscal responsibility.

Please let me know what your experiences, concerns, and priorities are. Together we can create a healthy public school system for New Orleans.

Thank you,
Amy Lafont
(504) 416-9766

Verification received that the RSD is not accredited

(Gmail) Siona LaFrance to Chris, me
Jul 1 (7 days ago)

Ms. Lafont
The Recovery School District has received your request for the following:

1. A copy of each certificate or letter of regional or national accreditation held by the Recovery School District.

The RSD does not have documents responsive to this request.

Elementary and secondary schools, and less often, school districts, can voluntarily seek SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) or other accreditation. The Recovery School District, which has completed only its second full year of operating schools in New Orleans, has not sought this accreditation at this point.


Siona LaFrance
Communications Director
Recovery School District
1641 Poland Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70117
(504) 373-6200 ext. 20084
(504) 214-7994 cell
(504) 309-3647 fax

Please see here for ramifications and unanswered questions about this concern.


Metairie, Louisiana
Statement of Purpose
July 4, 2008
By Rabbi Robert H. Loewy

The following are the comments by Rabbi Robert H. Loewy, Congregation Gates of Prayer of Metairie, presented at the Interfaith event, “Uproot Hate”, conducted outside the home of Travis and Kiyanna Smith. The Smiths, an African American family, were targets of racist hate symbols burned into their lawn shortly after they moved into their neighborhood on May, 2008.

Friends, Neighbors, Residents of Jefferson Parish and Greater New Orleans, my colleagues in the clergy and most of all, members of the Smith Family, I am both delighted and saddened to be standing before you today.
Approximately two months ago, Travis and Kiyanna Smith and their children moved onto Homestead Ave., in a new neighborhood, pursuing their God given rights in pursuit of the typical American dream- to live in a nice house, create a home in a safe neighborhood in comfort and security. As we know that dream was shattered within days of moving in by that individual or individuals, who chose to burn symbols of racism and hatred into their lawn. At first the family’s decision was to not make a fuss, but when the perpetrator came back a few weeks later, then it became time to respond. History teaches that silence is rarely an effective response to bigotry.
I want to thank Lance Hill, Executive Director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane University for reaching out to a number of clergy, informing us of these developments. From that initial contact, Rev. Dan Krutz of the Louisiana Interchurch Conference convened this Ad Hoc group of clergy, representing a spectrum of religions, to formulate an appropriate community response to these heinous acts and in support of the Smith family.
So, why are we all here today in such impressive numbers on this Independence Day morning? We gather to affirm the American values, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, that “All men (and women) are created equal” regardless of race, creed, religion, sex, orientation or national origin. All are created equal, all of us in the image of God.

More specifically, we are here to say:
“No” to acts of racism, and “Yes” to acts of harmony.
“No” to silence in the face of evil and “Yes” to protests for decency
“No” to tearing down dreams and “Yes” to building them up
“No” to intolerance in our community and “Yes” to openness
“No” to hating our neighbor, and “Yes” to loving our neighbor.

Thank you all for coming today. Let us now enter into community prayer.


Two articles on Interfaith Event in response to racial harassment of black family in Metairie, Louisiana.

Hate symbol burned into Metairie lawn to be ‘uprooted’

by Michelle Hunter, The Times-Picayune
Wednesday July 03, 2008
Page 1

The symbols of racial intolerance seared into the grass of an African-American family’s Metairie front yard almost two months ago will finally be removed Friday — Independence Day — during an interfaith service held by local Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders.

Organizers of the “Uproot Hate” service will join neighbors and friends of Travis and Kiyanna Smith to resod the area where the letters KKK and the shapes of three crosses were chemically burned into the grass just days after the family moved into their house at 1500 Homestead Ave. in a predominantly white section of northeast Metairie.

“It’s almost like an exorcism by the taking away of the evil or the bad that was done and hopefully replacing it with something fresh and new and good,” said the Rev. Dana Krutz, executive director of the Louisiana Interchurch Conference.

It was Krutz who convened members of the local faith community to discuss what could be done to help the Smiths. The group decided on a public observance that now includes representatives from the Chinese Presbyterian Church, St. Clement of Rome Catholic Church, Masjid Abu Bakr As-Sideeq mosque, Gates of Prayer synagogue, Munholland United Methodist Church, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church and Congregation Beth Israel synagogue.

The Fourth of July seemed to be a perfect fit.

“We thought about the ideals of our country, about freedom and equality,” Krutz said. “We thought it was really sort of an appropriate time to have the observance.”

Travis Smith, 35, and his wife, Kiyanna, 33, previously declined to identify themselves, shunning any personal publicity in favor of spreading awareness that intolerance still exists within the community.

Travis Smith admitted that remaining anonymous would be difficult because of the service, for which fliers were distributed among several local congregations.

Whether there’s an audience of two or a crowd of 20 on Friday, Travis Smith said, he and his wife are grateful for the members of the community who have already taken the time to reach out to their family. He said his family will never forget the act of hatred committed against them. But there comes a time when you must move forward.

“There has to be a closure. This Friday is going to be a closure,” he said.
Uproot Hate: Celebrate Freedom will be held Friday at 10 a.m. at 1500 Homestead Ave., Metairie. The public is welcome.
Michelle Hunter can be reached at or 504.883.7054.
Hundreds gather to replant lawn marked with hate symbols

by Mark Waller, The Times-Picayune
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Page 1

Exceeding organizers’ expectations, 200 to 300 people gathered this morning around the northeast Metairie home of Travis and Kiyanna Smith to denounce vandals that chemically burned hate symbols into the African-American couple’s lawn and to take turns digging up and resodding the defaced patches of grass.

Dubbed “Uproot Hate,” the Independence Day event was organized by a coalition of churches, synagogues and mosques.

“History teaches us that silence is rarely an effective response to bigotry,” said Rabbi Robert Loewy of Congregation Gates of Prayer in Metairie as he delivered the statement of purpose for the interfaith ceremony staged on the Smiths’ lawn at the corner of Homestead Avenue and Live Oak Street. “We gather to affirm the American values enshrined in that Declaration of Independence.”

“We denounce the cowardly and hateful action that took place some two months ago,” said Archbishop Alfred Hughes of the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans. “We renounce all unjust discrimination.”
The Smiths, who found the letters KKK and three crosses burned into their lawn shortly after they moved into their home almost two months ago, thanked the attendees.

“We appreciate you welcoming us into your neighborhood,” Travis Smith told the crowd. Later he said he was overwhelmed by the turnout.

“A month or so ago, I didn’t think no one cared,” Kiyanna Smith said, explaining that only a handful of neighbors responded initially to the racist symbols. “For me, I needed more people. And I see I got more people.”
Mark Waller may be reached at or (504) 883-7056.