Ten years ago the New Orleans Parents’ Guide to Public Schools was born as a response to an urgent need and a powerful opportunity. In an moment when our beloved city was in the midst of terrifying uncertainty and undergoing deep and wrenching changes to nearly every public institution, a group of advocates, activists, parents and educators gathered pour out ideas about what could be done. The Parents’ Guide was one of many ideas we charted up and, under the guidance of founder Aesha Rasheed, the guide took root and expanded. For a solid decade the Parents’ Guide has answered questions for families trying to navigate school enrollment while shedding light on how children are faring in our public schools.
And now, it is time to say goodbye. This year, the Parents’ Guide retires and steps aside for the local and state school districts that are responsible to New Orleans families to step up and take the reins of providing information about public schools. Tomorrow EnrollNOLA, the team that manages enrollment for most of our public school will unveil the new EnrollNOLA Schools Guide which is built on NOPG’s foundation.
We thought long and hard about this decision. All along independence – from districts, charter boards, even elected officials – has been an important strategy for keeping our work directly accountability to families and children. We strove to avoid allegiances to particular schools or groups of schools or even ideologies. Our bias was pro-families, pro-public schools and based on a belief that families and communities with access to information about schools would figure out ways to make schools better for their children.
But that same independence also made our work difficult. We consistently struggled to publish with limited resources and functioned largely by the sheer will of amazing, gifted and brilliant volunteers. All the while we held the huge and stressful responsibility of making sure the Parents’ Guide was ready for families to use in their critical decision-making processes. NOPG has always believed that this work is the responsibility of the collective “we” and should rightly be shouldered by the school districts and directed by parents and students.
All of those experiences and beliefs yield this decision. It is time to retire … with tremendous and expansive gratitude to the many many people who have made this work possible.
There are so many people to thank for years of dedication and support of NOPG. Some gave time and counsel, some gave expertise, some gave money, many edited pages and lifted boxes. As founder and long-time leader of NOPG through its many iterations, I have some particular thank yous …
To Karran Harper Royal, Ellen Tuzzolo & Shana Sassoon for being part of the birth of this idea
To the core NOPG/NOLA PON board members whose unwavering support, loving critique and ride-or-die loyalty has been essential to the work and to my personal growth.
To Sarah Usdin and Matt Candler for their support and incubation of NOPG in its early years.
To Audrey Stewart for being an amazing co-pilot and thought partner for these past five years.
To the staff team and member leaders of New Orleans Parent Organizing Network whose work and lived experiences built our analysis, impact and reach.
To the NOPG Parent Advisors – Maria Montoya, Soraya Jean-Louis McElroy, Adrien Ysaye McElroy, Trinese Jackson, Andrea Boll, Annette Hollowell, Florastina Payton-Stewart, Keisha Smith and Tory Taylor. Your expertise as parents has been critical and invaluable.
To Jane Patton and Alvin David for helping us get the data right and for your unfailing passion for this work.
To more than a hundred delivery and distribution volunteers who have year after year taken time out of their days and lives to deliver boxes of books to schools and childcare centers.
To the New Orleans Public Library for being the most wonderful and diligent of distribution partners. The NOPL staff has been a delight to work with and we will miss your smiles and helpfulness.
To New Orleans public school staffs who thoughtfully and diligently provided information about school programs … and especially to those who offered feedback and even pushback to make the Parents’ Guide stronger.