Monday, March 31, 2008

Ladies and gents, the best-ever Al Copeland obituary, complete with lagniappe. You'll never eat KFC again after reading it.

And, for some lagniappe of my own, head to Dangerblond's for more.
I took pictures of this school, even though it wasn't on the demolitions list. It is one of the few in the RSD's Planning District B to be spared this fate. Honestly, I was in the neighborhood, I took some photos of it, and moved on, paying little or no attention to what might have really brought me there.

It is in a condition that is not all that different from some of the other District B schools that are of the same age and have had about the same treatment - but I wondered what made this school exempt from the planned future that some of those schools were hurtling toward.

Well, in the case of Frantz Elementary, this might have something to do with it...

...1960 was the year when federally-sanctioned integration of the schools came to New Orleans, and it was not an easy transition at all. In many, many ways, this city is still reeling from the effects, which were not eased by past mayors, city councils, and school boards - or current ones, for that matter.

Because an entire white community was scared and filled with loathing towards the implications of a six-year-old black girl attending an all-white school - forget the fact that Ruby Bridges had some clue as to why the howling mobs were surrounding her every day, but was a tad more upset that she wouldn't be attending Johnson Lockett School with all her friends, something that all six-year-olds, no matter what color they are, have in their heads - it led to an exodus that many whites still make every time they can. It started with pulling their children out of the school, because God forbid anybody should be in contact with the beginnings of black people as equals. It graduated to the whites moving out of homes in the surrounding community, because, if blacks are on an equal footing educationally, it could lead to their having to be addressed as actual neighbors and fellow human beings.

In this way, many, many opportunities were squandered and crumbled to dust and ashes.

A serious consequence of these attitudes sits in the abandoned buildings that have sat there for two-plus years after 8-29-2005. In the wake of disaster, a school district is dissolved. A state takeover and a charter school boom has left these buildings neglected to the point where forty-seven of them are going to be gone, and, as of this writing, I have only found rebuilding plans for a small fraction of the schools that are going to go. Once again, if anybody has a source for plans that is NOT on a placard outside a demolition site, let me know, please.

Plans for Frantz Elementary are helping it stay off the RSD's list, after all.
Ms. Ruby Bridges formed the foundation as a 501(c) 3 in 1999. Today it has an active board of ten members, and a new and growing National Advisory Board. Ruby’s Bridges, the foundation's first national program initiative, completed its pilot phase in the spring of 2003 with the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

A second initiative is with the William Frantz School in New Orleans – the very school Ruby integrated in 1960. This project involves having the school declared a historical site, upgrading the library, changing the name to Ruby Bridges, and establishing a Ruby’s Bridges program at the school.

If you would like to know more about the Ruby Bridges Foundation or are interested in learning how you may help, please email us at

Would that the RSD and the BESE would endeavor to start applying the lessons that should have been learned and implemented by this city over forty years ago (going on fifty), and start looking more carefully at the neighborhoods that will be left behind if there are no schools rebuilt on the land where abandoned schools currently sit. The same ol' same ol' could well happen once the buildings are gone and the lure of easy money from the sales of that land is too great. First the schools will go - and then the neighborhoods.

"I can't play with you," a young white boy said to Ruby Bridges near the end of the school year, when some parents began to let their children attend Frantz Elementary again. "My mama said not to because you're a nigger."

The Ruby Bridges Foundation operates on the premise that "racism is a grown-up disease. Let's stop using our kids to spread it."

Ladies and gentlemen, there is more than one way to spread this disease. Teaching your kids to overtly leave "the Other" alone is one way. Putting a whole bunch of roadblocks in the way of that same "Other" and then claiming any number of excuses to squelch their protests and keep the roadblocks in place is another. Selling out public property in the name of the greater good and claiming this will help those who will have to schlep their kids a longer distance to school and/or have to keep track of every development in the admissions process, whether it is real or anticipated, is yet another way to kick the "Other" in the teeth...and that last one is a speculation that is grounded in a No-Cal anecdote from my mother-in-law. She took one look at the building summary statistics for a now-demolished RSD school and told me that was too valuable a parcel of land for the district to completely rule out the idea of selling it. It happened in her Silicon Valley 'hood - and it could damn well happen to us here.

All I'm saying is:

Empty lot + little to no concrete plans for complete replacement + recession + "Gimme My Money Back" measures on the part of the Winding Himalayan Goat Path...errr...Road Home program towards grant recipients + serious housing crisis could well equal no plans to rebuild the remaining forty-plus schools that are or are going to be piles of rubble.

I hope I'm wrong.

Otherwise, all that will be left will be the historical site of Ruby Bridges/William Frantz Elementary - a monument to a damn good idea that should have worked out by now, but will remain an idea that will have too many people acting too slowly on its implementation unless a whole host of things get done...and first and foremost among those things ought to be an obligation to help out these devastated communities with more than just hope, words and money.

Give 'em their schools back.

* I hope this addresses a couple of the comments from this post...specifically "Knowswhatsreallyup"s and Maitri's. I've been mulling over those comments for a while. And, KWRU, if you can tell me where in the phrase "complete replacement" is the part that says "only the portables" at Morris F.X. Jeff, I would like to know.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mark Folse got hold of this one and asked other bloggers to pass it around. I do check in on Poppy Z. Brite's Livejournal entries from time to time, and let's just say that these days, this fine writer is struggling with many, many things, and yet she is still living as best she can - a certain spark is still burning there.

This letter to Times-Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry about her new neighborhood is certainly evidence of that, as well as a plea for greater consideration and scrutiny of a place that is unfortunately better known for its appearances on the police blotters rather than as a place where people are doing the best they can under their circumstances...and those circumstances are in dire need of improvement. Read on:

Dear Jarvis,

You may remember me -- I sent you a Barnes & Noble gift card a while back. At that time, I was living in a temporary apartment on Prytania Street after we lost our Broadmoor home to the failure of the federal levees. I've since bought a house in Central City.

Man, I had a lot to learn when I moved here. I do not regret it, but the learning curve has been steep. We are the only white people within about three blocks in any direction. There are a few older homeowners around, but most of our neighbors are desperately poor renters, squatters, and semi-homeless people. They are mostly kind-hearted and even protective of us. They are also junkies and crackheads. When a white, middle-class person hears the word "crackhead," he tends to automatically think "criminal" and then "bad person." Many of us have known someone who had a pill problem or even heroin, or have had these problems ourselves, but I've met virtually no white people who had any contact with crack or its effects. It has an evil mystique that transfers itself to its users. Most if not all of my neighbors have indeed been to jail, but they are not bad people -- they are only hurting and desperate. In many cases they are hungry and living without electricity or water. I give them sandwiches and cold drinks and help them out a little when I can. If they choose to spend it on drugs, I don't begrudge that; I am not one to criticize anyone else's high, and I am hardly pure in that respect myself (but that's another story).

The system has failed these folks, and past a certain point, they have also failed themselves. It makes me sad, but sometimes it also makes me angry -- not on behalf of myself and certainly not on behalf of white people, but on behalf of all the people who endured horrors in Selma and Birmingham and Neshoba County and so many other places so that everyone could live more freely, and also on behalf of those of us who want to help drag New Orleans back from the abyss. None of my more transient neighbors has ever exercised his or her right to vote. Only one of them, a sweet, badly abused lady in her mid-forties named Sharline, can read on more than a rudimentary level. Some of them are very smart and have skills like electric work, landscaping, professional cooking, etc., but their drug habits prevent them from using these skills to help themselves. Everyone is hustling and/or jonesing all the time. Having lived here just under a year, we have already known two people who died drug-related deaths -- one a shotgun murder, one a 32-year-old OD whose funeral and second line we attended earlier this week -- and seen a young man wounded by gunfire right in front of our house. I have never felt afraid for myself; they are the ones in great danger, not us. I will never leave New Orleans, but I often despair for it.

I asked [the editorial page editor] if I could do a semi-regular column called "The View from Central City," because I truly don't think most T-P readers have any idea what goes on in Central City. To them we are just a series of violent squibs, head-shakes, and turning the page over their morning coffee. There is no knowledge and no outrage. However, there wasn't room on the editorial page. I guess I am writing to see if you would consider turning your attention to this neighborhood on occasion. I know I've never liked it when people tried to tell me what I should write or even made suggestions, so please feel free to ignore me or tell me to mind my own business, but I sure wish someone would do it. I am just coming out of a long morass of physical pain and severe depression, and I hope I will be able to write about this myself eventually, but as of now I've written almost nothing for 18 months -- perhaps it is good that I didn't get to do the column, because I might have been unable to live up to my commitment, and having made my living as a writer since 1991, I would have been deeply ashamed of that.

Anyway, I hope I haven't bugged you. I realize I may be spouting cliches that you, as a black writer who often addresses race, will have heard a million times. At any rate, I think you have a valuable voice and I hope one day you will consider using it on behalf of Central City. I would be happy to speak more about this at any time.


Poppy Z. Brite

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Oh, hey y'all, it's li'l ol' me again...

Because I am out on the Left Coast, and because I am much more concerned currently with such tidbits of info such as the fact that incidents involving mountain lions and bobcats are on the rise in the outdoors surrounding the in-laws' general suburban idyll (I'll bet the developers never figured that kind of wildlife into their equations), I have missed the RSD news that Ashley has dug up and G-Bitch has so ably commented on.

My only other comment, among many other curses and epithets I could hurl, is - huh, Dan Packer, Mr “Good faith is optional, but belief in quasi-public utility monopolies is mandatory.” I think the RSD kids had better start installing many, many solar panels on the schools that are about to be knocked down.

Check out Tom Lehrer YouTube #2 in my previous post, folks, 'cause the RSD/BESE is embarking on New Orleans' "New Math". And our brains will never be the same, but the system most likely will be. Ugh.

Friday, March 28, 2008

In honor of two momentous occasions, I am now initiating the first-ever Tom Lehrer Fest on this here blog. The first occasion: my in-laws found their Tom Lehrer recordings, so I was treated to a rendition of the following songs. The first relates to a current read of mine:

The second is all for my mother-in-law, who still teaches the young-uns part-time and is quite familiar with the whole thing Lehrer sings about:

And this final is to jump up and down for joy and genuflect, genuflect, genuflect to Ms Cajunvegan, who, like Ms Charlotte, has passed on an excellent award to li'l ol' moi. Woohoo!

Coming back home tomorrow night, folks. Another reason to woohoo! some more.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I'm a-sittin' on my la-la at my in-laws', fighting off sleep 'cause I still feel I've got some things to say. So here I come. Heh.

The computer here keeps giving me a big yellow warning bar every time my blog comes up - my website could be a scam. Proceed with caution. My father-in-law says it's something that has only begun popping up in the past couple of weeks. If anybody else is seeing it when my blog is up, let me know. I keep telling myself it could be worse - it could be the warning on the little guy's Razor scooter: CAUTION-This product moves when used. Uhhh, yeah, it most certainly does move. Thanks for the heads-up.

My emailbox keeps filling up, and if it ain't the NOLA blogpocheh doing it (concerning this - and Maitri had better watch it, 'cause her site is also a yellow bannered possible scam - ha!), it's my Queens synagogue's listservers constantly discussing the situation of Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama. Going back through all the emails gets kind of head-spinningly exhausting after a while, because, in the end, the argument amounts to: Would you split with your pastor for political gain or not? From a personal standpoint, most people agree that their spiritual leader(s) don't always say things that they themselves agree with, and that there is more than just a minister's/priest's/pastor's/rabbi's personality, charisma, je ne sais quois, what have you, that keeps them going to their local house of worship. It seems quite ironic that, in this country, and at this supposedly enlightened time in our history, we can pat ourselves on the back about that separation of church and state thing, and yet a presidential candidate is still gonna sink or swim by his affiliation (or, now, a lack thereof) with a certain church and a certain pastor.

One listserver said something along the lines of, "Hey, Meir Kahane once came to speak at my school! Does that mean I'm ineligible for public office?"

I link to the site built around the words and deeds of the late, former head of the Jewish Defense League hesitantly, because this is a rabbi who ran around with a motto: "every Jew a .22" - advocating that the Jewish people engage in offensive rather than defensive armed struggle against all its enemies. If he had not died in 1990 by the gun violence he preached, he would surely be running around today telling everybody he'd told them another Holocaust was coming on American soil this time, but nooooo, nobody wanted to believe him. Some of his twisted legacy is still with us today, and none of this is to say that his ideas were anything new in Jewish history...what was different was their time and place. It takes loads of chutzpah to get in front of folks in their comfy homes on Long Island and tell them they need to immigrate to Israel immediately because their lives are threatened by the goyim. It also takes loads of bullheadedness to refuse to see that, for the people you are working on converting to your views, there might actually be something worth fighting for right in their own front yards that can't be found in the Holy Land.

Preachers like Kahane and Jeremiah Wright are there to get us thinking about our world differently. Their words may have much more fervor than truth to them, but it gets you wondering about how insane the world might be if it sees you as somebody who is less worthy of basic human rights than someone else who is Christian and/or white. Something ain't right about that, folks. What's so wrong about somebody pointing that out and unsettling you about it?

But I keep forgetting. We don't want to be disturbed. We just want to live and let live. Too many people want to kill others for being different as it is. Why stand out? It'll just mean that we've maneuvered ourselves into the center of a giant bullseye. Too much of a hassle, too much at stake for that to happen.

Which is why, in the end, the candidate who conforms the most will be rewarded. The mainstream media will crown said candidate with empty accolades and pithy projections of "what hath the American people wrought, and ain't it grand?" well before Election Day comes around, and the majority of folks in this country will follow it all like lemmings over a cliff.

I myself am highly unsure about all the presidential front-runners, and would love to toss 'em back into the sea. But eventually I will make a decision, like everyone else here....and I will hope against all hope that my vote doesn't get lost in a sea of mass conformity.

After all, in the end, our front yards are at stake.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

So many more New Orleans folks have come barging into my life, and I've opened the door wide for 'em, all because of blogging.

In the past few months, I've hung with Ms NOLA and her Cap'n Sarcastic, Pontchartrain Pete, and Ms Stacey at Rock N Bowl, I've welcomed Sheckrastos and Dr A, the Oyster clan, and Celcus and Cleo to my home on Mardi Gras, I've run into AshMo and family as well as Lisa over at the little guy's school's SpringFest, I saw Coozan Pat hurtling himself away from work not too long ago, I met with Sophmom at a local watering hole while she was in this neck of the woods, Karen rescued me from a lost car keys incident, I saw this fellow at a recent St Patrick's Day par-tay, saw this one at a local breakfast place recently (and don't forget to wish him a happy birthday tomorrow, folks!), and I see this character pretty much every week, if not every other day. Can't avoid him, for some reason ;-).

With all this meeting and greeting and hanging with other members of the blogpocheh, I think it's high time we develop some sort of secret handshake or something. Really, NOLA says it best:

That was all fine and good. But the next thing I knew things had taken a turn, a turn had you told me it’d have taken I would never have begun blogging. Had you said, “you will start to meet other bloggers,” I would have been turned off. I am not one to “meet someone through the internet.” And I could never have envisioned me wanting to meet other bloggers in “the real world.”

Never say never, right?

I for one am quite happy I haven't said never to all these folks.

And though things on this blog lately have taken a somber turn, and Dan will say things to me like, "Really, you didn't have to tell me we were meeting people to get me to come here!" when I consent to meet with other blogging folks and drag him along, and though I will deflate Dan's news on occasion by telling him I already found out about Al Copeland passing away from the blogpocheh (among other things), I am, overall, grateful and happy with this blogging thing.

I will say that Dan is the only one who has brought up the possibility that folks will now start suing the Popeyes spice supplier Al owned for giving them cancer of the salivary glands. Perhaps too much Popeyes chicken might have contributed...


Let Al rest in peace. He lived his life like a house afire. And Madame DB is right:
It’s funny to read the obituary of this flamboyant, ego-driven, over-the-top man and to come away thinking, “wow, Anne Rice is a real nut-cake.”

And, in more RSD news this morning:

...Vallas' superintendency could become a test case for a top-down, executive management style for urban school districts, a style unhindered by a local, on-the-ground school board or, for that matter, a strong teachers union. If Vallas succeeds in demonstrating improvements, he could bolster the case for more unchecked power at the helm of school districts. If he flounders, he could becomes a fall guy with fewer people to share the blame.

Check with We Could Be Famous to see E's take.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dear God, it's a parent's worst nightmare...and it shares some similarities with the dream I had about all my clocks in the house being wrong.
I sent an email to the city and the school board with a few
suggestions. I think it would be a good idea to have the same registration dates for every public school and that date should be sometime in June. Our population is changing too much daily for the current process to be fair to parents. The
second suggestion is that people shouldn’t be allowed to register a child for school unless that child is actually the age required to go to school. There is no way pre-k programs should have a two year waiting list. People are registering their kids for school when they are two years old and I am sitting
here feeling like a bad parent for actually waiting for my daughter to turn four. Waiting might be a costly judgment call. The last suggestion is this. I think the city should spend the money and create a map of every available school in the city with phone numbers and class ratio and mail it to every house in the city regardless if kids live there or not. The person at that address may have ten family members about to return home. We should do it every six months or until the situation is stable (whatever that means). There are schools open that I only found out about by seeing them in the Mardi Gras parade. Who has the time to track every single opening or new charter? Of course, I could always send my baby to the school around the corner from the house. Since they just started cleaning old furniture out of it recently, I don't think it's going to be ready
by the time she graduates elementary school. She'll probably end up going across town to a school I have to pay for and have to get up at the crack of dawn like she's going to work in the ship yard.

This isn't right. This is all wrong, wrong, wrong, and it will be hampering our recovery by a few more years, at this rate. I'd say much more, but I've gotta get off my in-laws' computer.

All of this schools nonsense is making everybody feel as though they are living on time borrowed from somebody somewhere. Too many parents are being told, "Too bad," when they haven't kept track of all the miniscule changes that could make or break their kids' entry into a school that is right for them. This situation is getting more slippery than your average moray eel.

And parents and their children are told to suck it up and pay for it.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I know it's not the cheeriest thing to post on a holiday, but it ain't exactly the most cheery holiday, despite the giant bunny rabbits and the chocolate eggs.

I paid a visit to Moton Elementary last week without really knowing its story. To learn this week that it is sitting atop a Superfund site now puts some things into perspective. And it absolutely begs some more questions:

This one begs more questions than would seem possible in an hour long RSD planning process. Why were the Neighbors in this area allowed to come back? Why didn’t the Federal government come in with a real just and equitable buy out plan? Why is this School still filled with furniture and paperwork and most likely sensitive records?
By the way the nickname for this area in the 40s was
Dantes Inferno

For a fuller story, and an all-around look at Moton courtesy of Karen and Sarah's new camera, head to Citizens' City Hall and view a piece of New Orleans' own Love Canal.

Oh, and another possible reason for allowing people to return to Moton and the surrounding area:
Though Love Canal has been relatively clean for a few years, the former toxic waste site was only recently, in March of 2004, recommended by the EPA for removal from the Superfund list. This proposal opened the door to a 30 day period of public comment. If taken off of the list, Love Canal will be watched closely for any signs that the area needs further cleanup. Love Canal is fast being repopulated; about 250 of the surrounding homes have been sold. Many residents feel that Love Canal is now a clean, safe place; however to some people such as environmental crusader Lois Gibbs, Love Canal is still as much of a toxic waste dump as ever. Gibbs is quoted in the Buffalo News as saying "It's obviously not cleaned up, because there are still 20,000 tons of chemicals buried there and it's only a matter of time before it leaks."

Still others find the Love Canal cleanup to be conveniently timed by President Bush to coincide with an election year. Luella Kenny, a former Love Canal resident who believes her 7 year old son died as a result of the contamination, suggests in the Buffalo News that "it's (President) Bush's way of trying to correct a dreadful environmental issue by claiming his govenment cleaned up Love Canal." Environmental cleanup has decreased dramatically during the Bush administration, and it has been suggested that the removal of Love Canal from the Superfund list was facilitated to demonstrate how the Bush administration cares for the environment.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hoppy Easter, all!

Gotta love Bill Hicks' take on the whole thing. If anybody DOES find anything unusual in their sock drawers, let me know. And don't get ME started on the Gideons...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Yeah, it's not like it was entirely unexpected...

...but it's still a bit of a shock to see L.B. Landry on the west bank turned into rubble.

My personal favorite part of this, however, is the nifty sign posted at the site. It's close behind a fence, so I had to poke the camera lens through the chain links to get the whole thing.

This represents the first actual plan I have seen for a school on the demolitions list. I'm still searching for any others that might be out there.

As for all the Biblical quotations on the sign and the admonitions to trust in the Lord, I think the children, the teachers, and the school administrators need all the help that they can get.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Today, I will be making Hamantaschen and scrambling to get hold of some noisemakers for the little guy's class tomorrow, so that we can counter the cultural (i.e., Christian) activity of searching for stuffed Easter eggs in the park. I cringed at having to get hold of some plastic eggs for this purpose, especially since I saw some eggs that are completely, totally symbolic of what is going to tank Western civilization as we know it.

I'm not talking about the gross Cadbury creme eggs, or those nasty Marshmallow Peeps.

I'm not talking about the Disney Princess, Spider-Man, or SpongeBob plastic eggs.

I'm not even talking about the ready-made action-figure themed Easter baskets.


I give you: Camo Eggs.

Yes, they will make the hunt infinitely more challenging...but there is yet another dimension to these goobers. The little guy took one look at them and, after establishing for the thousand-and-eighth time that no, we don't celebrate Easter because yes, we're Jewish, he said,

"Ohhh, army eggs!"

Ladies and gentlemen...when our armed forces have so fully permeated even our celebrations, our rituals, and our games...isn't that some sort of harbinger of doom right there?

To heck with that - I'm gonna make some Haman's ears and celebrate the day the bastard was hanged in Persia many, many centuries ago. Yee-hah! Purim sameach!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Some responses to last week's RSD/OPSD properties posts:
Thanks to Jindal, we are now going to pay parents with our tax for sending their kids to private and parochial schools thus undermining and sabotaging our public schools system.

And I saw few if any bloggers chastise Jindal for this plan. I wonder why?

Yeah, crucify him on Hannah Montana but for destroying the public schools system with this tax deduction?

People can talk all they want but from what I have seen, they are not walking the walk, unless the pathway leads to Holy Cross, Brother Martin or Country Day.

As for those schools you mention? Tear
them down and make parks. Finish what Katrina started, what Jindal continued and what the big mouths hypocrites will take advantage of when they privately fill out their tax returns while pointing out the woes of our schools system. (You do know you have to request that tax break when you fill out your state tax forms, so you actually can skip it that could benefit your public school system, levees, roads, public school teacher raises, etc; if you really want to.
Actually, D-BB, I did imbed Schroeder's note of Jindal's tax bailout to parents looking for better schools in this post...and I'm glad you brought it up outside of the context of that post of mine that focused a bit more on the biases of New Orleans magazine than it did on the schools. Measures such as the ones Jindal endorses won't just tank the traditional public schools - it will also cause the charters to scramble for even more money that is getting scarcer as the economy goes under. At least we aren't in California - things might just come down to a greater amount of home schooling on the part of many more parents or guardians here.

Really, the only ammo left in the charter schools' arsenals is a certain amount of under the table selective enrollment:
Does anyone ever stop and wonder why all these schools only enroll 5th grade and 9th grade? That's because charters, unlike RSD schools, have the advantage of only accepting students who have passed the 4th grade and 8th grade leap--meaning that they are essentially all selective admission schools that do not have to take on the challenge of 4th graders who can't read or write. I can't even guess how many charter schools there are now that have only one grade. Then they move the fifth grade kids up to sixth grade and weed out the ones they don't like--and they are not obliged to enroll any new kids. In the end, they graduate a class of cherry-picked kids and claim they worked miracles for the same revenues (and hide millions in foundation grants that supplement their state revenues)
Yep, I'm still taking pictures. The worst I came across recently was Moton Elementary, not far from the Desire projects site.Three wide-open gates to the outside grounds. Seven open doors to the building that I could see. Took on one foot of water, according to the RSD building summary. Very little has been touched in this building since 2005 - the furniture hasn't even been removed. The kitchen ovens and the stench of rotted food are still there.

And, in the darkened auditorium, rows of chairs still sit, awaiting an assembly that is never going to come.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The soundtrack to E's latest post:

Yes, indeed...let he who reports for FoxNews cast the first stones.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness. Gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot and killed by high school and college graduates. So I'm suspicious of education. My request is: help your students to be human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, or educated Eichmanns. Reading and Writing and spelling and history and arithmetic are only important if they serve to make our students more human.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I read the news today...

Ohhhh, boy.

In a public school landscape with many start-up charter schools without established reputations, competition for students can be fierce. The schools, particularly charters, are turning to marketing strategies more typically associated with private schools or businesses. They are running radio ads, blanketing the neutral ground of streets with signs, buying bus ads and billboards, canvassing neighborhoods for interested families, and holding special band performances in parks to attract new students.

"This is probably the most competitive market for public schools in the country, which is a good thing," said Ben Kleban, principal of New Orleans College Prep, a first-year charter school.

Educators say they aim to transform the way New Orleans parents think of choosing a school for their children. No longer should children denied admission to selective magnet programs be given few choices. Instead, they should be treated like empowered consumers.

At least the application deadlines have been extended to March 19. And, instead of having to fill out applications for each school a parent wants to apply to, there is a so-called "common application" that's supposed to streamline the process. Things are still mighty chaotic in the process of trying to get these parents to enroll, however - precisely because of all the signs being used to advertise the schools.
A spokesman for the city Department of Parks and Parkways say several motorists have complained about the signs. Nonprofits, including churches and schools, can get permission from the department to post neutral-ground signs, and about six schools have this year. The department tries to keep pace with removing unauthorized school signs as fast as possible, but has struggled to keep up this year.
Read on in the article for the other ways in which what was formerly a nonprofit exercise of educating children has become a dog and pony show for school administrators trying to get enrollment up.

Of course, the other issue is: where are all these new charter schools gonna be?

A nifty company out of Baton Rouge, Arrighi-Simoneaux, installed over $40 million worth of modular buildings at seven school sites in the city. One of the new charters will be operating out of the ones behind Livingston Middle School, in the middle of New Orleans East, while another will be located in the ones behind Sarah T. Reed High School.

There are more rows of good-sized white cells...uhh...modular classrooms behind Fannie Willams Middle School, Carver-Edwards, Abramson High School, and two others.

In light of what I've seen the past few weeks, well, all of these things demonstrate a market economy approach to schooling children that treats them like pawns in a for-profit game. The move is clearly one that leaves traditional neighborhoods in limbo - because we still haven't seen anything in contract form that obligates the RSD to rebuild on the sites of the former OPSD schools to be demolished.

Oh, and, speaking of market economies......anybody wanna buy a school?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Well, I've taken pictures of sixteen RSD schools in the past two weeks.

Karen and Sarah have taken many, many pictures of other RSD schools.

A good friend of mine expressed some disgust this past Sunday at this undertaking of photographing all these schools that are on the chopping block.

"Those schools out east deserve to be demolished," she said. "Their principals didn't fight hard enough to have them reopened."

I was pretty angry at what she said. I was also exhausted and didn't want to blurt out something I was going to regret later. So I didn't say anything, and the subject was dropped.

It's amazing how much she forgot from the first week or so after the storm. A former Orleans Parish Schools employee, my friend learned over the internets in the town to which she had evacuated that the school system had been dissolved due to the floods. She had talked to me over the phone about it when she found out, and later on that night, I found a number on the Times-Picayune's website for her to call to check on her pension status.

She was even offered a teaching job right away in the town where she was staying. It paid a heck of a lot more than staying with the OPSD, but she was so distraught, she turned it down. She now says that, if the floodwaters hadn't stopped a block from her house, she'd have stayed in the evacuation town and gladly taken the job.

So where is her empathy for all those who took jobs elsewhere and declined to return?

In some ways, I know that empathy for others who left this city from those of us who are here is really difficult to come by. The impulse to tell those folks:"To hell with you! You've abandoned us in our time of need" can be very strong.

But when I see things like this happening, or see Paul Pastorek getting some sort of "combat pay" for having to handle the RSD, or hear about others' struggles with teaching the kids here - well, how can you blame some school administrators for going where they are wanted and better paid? Where there are much better connections to the parents and guardians whose children are in the school? How can you blame teachers who, in late 2005, needed a job, period?

How powerful would you feel when you saw buildings like Hardin Elementary School in this condition 2-plus years after the Federal Flood?

Looks pretty darned hopeless, huh? Especially if you're doing it without much of a committee, or without the backing of a community effort to make the RSD, or the OPSD (what's left of it) accountable for their actions and their spending. Not to mention what exactly will happen to these properties once the buildings are demolished - will it become yet another case of "letting the market economy decide" what happens to the land?

Enter a group of concerned parents in Mid-City (and a notification courtesy of E):
Some folks in Mid City have become suspicious of the Recovery School District's suggestion that Morris F.X. Jeff Elementary School requires "complete replacement."...

A group of them will be mobilizing to attend tonight's facilities planning meeting tonight at 3121 St. Bernard Ave. The meeting runs from 6 to 8.

I won't be able to make it but I wish I could.

People have become suspicious of the RSD Master Plan in general. The situation certainly merits the watchful eyes of New Orleans residents.
Click on the picture below to access Karen's pictures of Morris F.X. Jeff and members of the surrounding community who want some answers.

What exactly is going on here? What makes Jeff Elementary a candidate for demolition machines, even though it didn't see nearly as much water as Hardin did? Would you trust a school district to build and maintain new facilities when they couldn't even deal with the old ones? Would you trust new facilities built by a company that royally screwed up overseas?

How public IS our public education system anyhow?
Note to readers: The date and time on the following post is actually 3-14, 11:10 AM. I'm placing it after the RSD post, however, due to some prioritizing on my part.


Thanks for your answers to my quiz, everybody! However, I am sorry to say that nobody answered both questions correctly.

Oyster and the Seestergirl surmised correctly that the giant clownfish was not from off a float. The little guy's grandparents got him that one.

As for everybody's guesses that the yellow puppy might be the fave, that's good thinking...

But Puppy is a close second to the likes of:

Mr Squawkey!

Oh, well. The prize woulda been five random books from my shelves...'cause I gotta start getting 'em outta this house!

Thanks for playin'! Y'all be well.

Best take on the idea that Obama can get that consolation prize of being Clinton's running mate:
This week Senator Obama had to shut down any idea of him being Hillary Clinton’s running mate. I know and understand why Barak doesn’t want to be labeled the “black candidate”. The longer this thing goes on the more he has to deal with black people situations. Do you know how many times I have had to train my future supervisor? Do you know how many times I lost jobs to friends of the CEO’s cousins and nephews? The feeling of entitlement in those circles is real. I have spent lots of time working under someone that should have been working under me. Hillary just played the "accept your place" card on Obama.
Best take on Spitzer 'Hogate:
Because if he was a Republican, he'd have been caught on video with FOUR hookers doing blow off copies of classifed CIA documents about Iran while wearing only a wet suit and one nipple clamp, with a dildo shaped like Fran Drescher stuck in his ass and the stereo blaring the collected works of Sun Myung Moon in the background while he screamed "You're not my mommy!!!!" THAT'S why I'd be interested.
Best take on all the pharmaceuticals in our drinking water:
Gross. Anybody else out there get the queasy feeling that such lingering effluvia isn't limited to what medications people take?

In any case, I'm not too concerned. At the moment I have wisdom-tooth-related pain, and last night I had a headache on top of that. Hugging the tap didn't do jack squat for that, though it is worth noting that my menstrual cramps have completely vanished.

What are our fools in Washington drinking? Apparently, caffeine, ibuprofen, monensin, naproxen, carbamazepine and sulfamethoxazole. Oh, and power.
And as for me, I've been taking a LOT of pictures. I'll have more thoughts on those later.

And this contest ends tomorrow. Get your best guesses in ASAP!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Daniel Z. alerts us all, via the comments at Obamoyster's post on New Orleans magazine's link policy, of other folks who have asinine linking policies: Don't Link To Us!

My personal fave:
According to an AP report (cited in Slashdot), Intentia International has filed criminal charges against Reuters PLC, alleging that the news service illegally obtained an earnings report that the company had not yet released, by guessing the URL at which it had been posted on Intentia's public web site. Intentia claims that the report was "not available through normal channels," according to AP. (Also see Financial Times and CNET reports.) DES permalink
My knee-jerk reaction is: if you don't want people to know a damn thing, don't post it on the internet.

Thanks very much. I'll be here all week...until I possibly get hauled off to the clink along with E and Greg. And when they ask me if it was worth it to be hauled in for alerting better-minded folks to the biased scraps of pouffy information that pass for news articles that get devoured by the privileged one percent of the population in these parts, I'll say, "Hell, yes...the truth is out there, but these people choose to ignore it."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Thanks to Ms Ingman, I now know...


It's a useful skill to have. Really.
Sorry, folks, everybody's got to cut and paste the following link addresses into their browsers. See the note at the bottom of this post.

Ooooh, first Daylight Savings turns me and the little guy into zombies, and then I find I cannot quit this frickin' magazine:, especially when they publish articles like the following

In the days leading up the council vote, the SWAT team had been dealing with harassment from radical activists at the B.W. Cooper and St. Bernard projects. The tension was building and Scheuermann suspected it was about to boil over.

The protesters themselves were the subject of much of the controversy. Several prominent New Orleanians, including a couple of council members, charged that many of the protesters were out-of-town, Birkenstock-clad agitators who had never set foot inside a New Orleans housing development until news cameras showed up.
Recent developments seemed to bolster that claim.

After a three-hour standoff at B.W. Cooper – the old Calliope project – SWAT officers arrested two 50-something-year-old protesters from Brooklyn. Other public housing activists turned out to be Ivy League college students on Christmas break.

“We’ve seen a lot of Volvos,” one city official said.
The charters will die by their semi-autonomy, apparently:
The infighting that marked education decisions for Orleans Parish schools before Katrina hasn’t disappeared; it has shifted.

The new power struggle is between the Orleans Parish School Board and its charters and, to a lesser extent, the Recovery School District and its charters. The conflict is about money and accountability, issues that are likely to make their way to the Legislature in April.

Charter schools are semi-autonomous and their leaders are able to spend their budget resources as they wish. Nevertheless, they are still very much dependent on their local or state chartering agency to forward money due them from the state Minimum Foundation Formula or federal grants. If money is withheld, the financial difference creates budgeting headaches for the schools. They must pay their own employees and other expenses.
Schroeder details what the state is doing to make things worse. Whoopee!!!!

Oh, and this one's for Jeffrey. There is a better solution to the condoization of this city, folks:
While condos are moving, Sterbcow says the growth of rental apartments in the local area may be forming a new stumbling block for condo sales down the line.
“A lot of apartments went off the market because of Katrina, which put pressure on people in need of homes to buy condos,” he says. “But now a lot of rentals are coming back on the market and new ones are opening, and some people are thinking that they can rent more cheaply than buying.”

Sterbcow said more than 2,000 rental units were vacant in the metropolitan area in mid-February, suggesting that downward pressure on rents is likely to continue.
Rent, everybody, rent!!!!! No maintenance fees!! Just pay by the month and handle your own utilities, phone, and cable costs. Now don't you feel better?

Actually, now I feel worse. I'm gonna keel for a while and check on how many people have guessed correctly on this quiz o' mine. Enjoy!
Update, 3-11: Obamoyster reads the teensy print on the New Orleans magazine website. Thanks, dude. If E and I get hauled into court for the links, I expect to get representation and support from all the blogosphere on this. But please, no Volvos - we don't want 'em to use that "outside agitator" gris-gris on us.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

It's nap time for all the stuffed animals:

Let's start with an easy question: Which one is not a Plush Appeal stuffed animal from off a Mardi Gras float?

And now...which one is the little guy's favorite stuffed animal?

Answer later in the week! Prize to be determined.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

from Sophmom on the last post:
47 schools is a lot of schools to tear down. It did seem to me like the article in your link indicated that these mid 20th century buildings left much room for improvement.

Am I foolish and naive to think that we could be embarking on a period of flowering amidst rebuilding?
From me:

Yeah, there is room for improvement. The question is whether or not it will actually get DONE. Enlisting Parsons on a major rebuilding endeavor such as this one is does not bode well for the future of the facilities under the RSD.

Make no mistake - I WANT there to be a flowering. Most signs, however, do not point in that direction. And, as for these schools left to rot, they are, in most cases, sitting on more than enough land on which to make additions and improvements. The portable classrooms were longtime stopgaps for what should have been done in the first place to these schools. What contributed to their sorry states before the floods was the mismanagement of money that was well-documented in the film Left Behind.

What is missing here is, STILL, that accountability.

Oh, and for more school idiocy, head for AshMo's. Who says the charters are immune to administrative idiocy?

Quick history lesson: Lusher is supposed to be one of the best schools in the city. Parents love it, the students love it. Historically, Lusher drew about half of their students from a geographic district (gif map here, kml map here), and about half tested in. The racial makeup of the school mirrored the racial makeup of New Orleans.

Enter Katrina and the Federal Flood. Scott Cowen, President of Tulane, rightfully thought that to bring Tulane employees back, they would need the incentive of a good school for their children. So he got Tulane to blackmail donate a vast amount of money to Lusher.

In return, all Tulane employees can send their kids to Lusher, regardless of test scores, race, or where they live.

Problem: now, too many Tulane employees are taking advantage of Cowen's blackmail the Tulane Lusher benefit.

What does this mean? Too few slots, too many kids that want to go there.

What happens now?

The Tulane parents still can get their kids in there, no problem.

The geographic district pays the price. And God help you if you have to test in.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Some rants emitted by me on this blog in recent (and not so recent) days have led me down the path to...New Orleans East.

The East is one area that has largely been neglected by the voluntourism sweeping the city. It's not as pretty as some of the older areas of New Orleans, it doesn't have as much historical cachet as all the ruined shotgun houses and Creole cottages, and, overall, its population isn't as white as it is in Lakeview, Lake Vista, Lake Terrace, and the other inundated neighborhoods further west and closer to Jefferson Parish. This Old House hasn't been rushing in to gut, remediate, and restore any homes in the 'hoods off Morrison Avenue, or Chef Menteur Highway, or even close to the Lakefront Airport, which is back in full operational mode.

People have been coming back to the East, however, because it's home. For some, it's harder than others, like 'most anyplace in the city these days that was sitting in floodwaters for over a month. I have in front of me right now a copy of Issue #2 of ArtVoices magazine, opened to an advertisement for an upcoming photography show at Terrence Sanders gallery. It shows a man standing on a diving board suspended over a backyard pool filled with black, brackish water. Behind him is a ruined house reduced to cinder block walls and plywood, with debris lining the edges of the swimming pool. The caption reads:
Chef Menteur Highway plunges eastward over the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet into a succession of 60's era housing chiseled from reclaimed wetlands. Here amid a grid of streets with names like Robin Hood and Nottingham rests John Moore's childhood home. An energy rater for a post-Katrina rebuilding firm, he's well aware of the risks of building on land that more or less floats. "We all knew it was risky," he ventured, "but where else could you find an affordable two-story with a pool?" Reduced to a shell of lumber and facades, the house has been sold to a real estate speculator from New Jersey. "This pool was my favorite place to play growing up," John mused, staring for a long moment into the sordid rectangle of dank water. "These East New Orleans developments were sold as millionaire dream homes for workin' folks."*
For too many people out east, their dream homes became nightmares. And it ain't over for them yet. John Moore's former home is not far from the Sherwood Forest Elementary School, one of the schools slated for demolition by the RSD. The facility sits in ruins, surrounded by a fence that has some large, wide open gates. Tire tracks have made deep ruts in the wide open schoolyard. Several of the doors into the buildings on the site are unlocked; it is very easy to get into these buildings with little effort. I had to watch where I was walking, however, as there is still some debris in these buildings as well as outside of them.

What makes Sherwood Forest in particular a bit sad is that it looked like it was on the verge of
being adopted by the University of New Orleans as a "Professional Development" school. The banner still hangs proudly on the outside wall, a symbol of hope that is dying on the vine:

If UNO had come through on this, Sherwood Forest would be the only RSD school operating in the middle of New Orleans East in its own building. The entire physical plant of Sherwood Forest is not that large, and it really wouldn't take very much to rip out what hasn't been ripped out yet, remediate the whole thing, and put in all new walls, fixtures, and wiring. Instead, the facility is left unguarded, unsecured, and susceptible to the elements, both natural and
unnatural. And it is not the only one like this.

The first building I visited was Little Woods Elementary. I could drive right onto the parking area in front of the main building and walk around on the grounds. The main building had pieces of plywood bolted over every opening, which wasn't that difficult to do - it is a building of fairly recent vintage (okay, 1972. Architect: Edward M.Y. Tsoi) with few windows and a good number of doors that had at one time opened into each classroom. The one casualty to this security measure was the door handles and doorknobs, which had had to be ripped out so that the plywood would lie flat against each door.

I learned the drill at Little Woods. It might look like a secured fortress discouraging visitors, but there was always a wide open gate to the grounds, and there was always an open door or a knocked-out window somewhere that gave me easy access to the ruined insides. Before I learned about the open door, however, I drove around to the back of the school grounds, which could be viewed from a cul-de-sac behind the school. A lady opened the door to her recently restored home, and her mop of a dog said hello, running towards my feet and wriggling with delight at the attention I was giving him. She asked me why I was there, and I told her I was taking pictures of the school, that there was a planning meeting about what was to be done with the facility that night at the Village De L'Est school not far from Michoud Boulevard.

"Well, they took out all the portables and the furniture, and ripped out the A/C units," she told me, pointing to the empty shells on the roof that once housed the units. "I put three children through school there, and one grandchild as well. It's very quiet now," she said wistfully. It must have been especially lonely where she was situated - she was in one of the few fully restored houses in the area, though a lot of work was being done on others and a set of apartments across from the school on Curran had reopened... but the occupancy level there was still low.

"I'm working with some folks who want to see what can be done about this," I said, knowing deep down that unless many, many more people such as herself stood up and hollered that they didn't want their neighborhood school to be left behind, it would be demolished, and who knows if anything would be put back in its place right away?

" can't fight City Hall," she said with sad resignation, in a voice that hinted at hard-won knowledge in that regard.

Yes, it may be difficult to fight it - but at least one can speak up.

I've got many, many more pictures of the abandoned schools of RSD Planning District H to download that scream for themselves. What will ultimately be done with the schools? The neighborhoods in which they sit are coming back, so why is the process of community consultation being treated as a complete joke? In terms of education, the children of this area have been down so long that any kind of consideration is gonna seem like a way up and out. Their parents need to speak out, and if they can't do so because, most likely, they are working their tails off just to try to keep up with the rising costs of living where they are, they need to have people advocating for their rights in the process. To give you an idea of what that might look like (with some reservations - the TCA board that built the preschool has some nefarious local characters listed on it, such as Oliver Thomas and Ellenese Brooks-Simms), I give you a look at a Head Start facility for preschoolers located directly across from the abandoned Jordan Elementary:

I can't put my finger on what exactly the RSD is going to do once it has gotten rid of the facilities that it has scavenged some portable classrooms, furniture, and A/C units from, but if these returning homeowners don't start speaking up, chances are there will be nothing to replace those buildings for a long time. Once again, the same syndrome that has hit the housing developments is hitting the school buildings under the RSD umbrella, except we're having a hard time seeing the demolition contracts, let alone the redevelopment contracts - if those exist. Keep an eye out for Parsons, everybody, because they have now come to the 'hoods to supposedly help with the redevelopment of the RSD's master plan.

And whatever you do - don't stay silent and shut this out. This is happening all over the city, not just the (not so far) East.

*from an upcoming exhibit (March 29th - April 10th) of photographer Stewart Harvey's New Orleans Sketches

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Look what I found:

Pruitt-Igoe: designed by Minoru Yamasaki. Current status of the site: a "wildlife preserve" of sorts.

And look at what the Book found:

The fight indeed continues, with a nifty comment by Lolis Eric Elie on the disposal of reusable building materials left over from the Lafitte housing development's demolition in today's column.

As for the schools in planning area H, I will have more on them a little later, although I must say that it is one hell of a way to open a flickr account. And, if anybody wants to contribute a score a la Philip Glass, or with a hip-hop beat, or whatever, let me know. Haven't you always wanted to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic?

Update, 3-6: Huh. I had no idea that Godfrey Reggio was born in New Orleans. Thanks, Noos Ladda!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I give you Exhibit A: the City Business article detailing 47 RSD schools on the chopping block:

Thirty-four schools — Abrams, Alexander, Bienville, Bradley, Coghill, Gordon, Jordan, Little Woods, Osborne, Sherwood Forest, Arthur Ashe, Lafon, LaSalle, Fisk-Howard, Hoffman, Hynes, Morris F.X. Jeff, Terrell, Wheatley, Wilson, Edison, Edwards, Haley, Hardin, Lockett, Morial, Moton, Tubman, Hansberry, Langston Hughes, Shaw, Waters, Chester and Dunbar Elementary Schools - have all been slated for replacement.

Thirteen more schools — Gregory and Priestly junior high schools, Lake Forest Montessori and Parkview magnets, Woodson, Phillips, Lake Area and Augustine middle schools, L.B. Landry, Schwartz Alternative, Abramson, G.W. Carver and Lawless high schools — also face the wrecking ball if recommendations are finalized.

Exhibit B: from the New Orleans School Facilities Master Plan site:

March 4th, 2008

6 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Village de l'Est Elementary

5100 Cannes Street.
New Orleans, LA 70129


Abrams Elementary School
Gaudet Elementary School
Jordan Elementary School
Lake Forest Montessori School
Little Woods Elementary School
Livingston Middle School
Morial Elementary School
Osborne Elementary School
Schaumburg Elementary School
Sherwood Forest Elementary School
Village de l’Est Elementary School
Fannie C. Williams Middle School

And, yes, March 4th is tonight.

Exhibit C: The Lake Forest Montessori School building summary:

Current Use: Vacant Building - Designated as “School Buildings Demolition Project”

Community Considerations / Priority to Community
Size of the student pop. near the site.........................................60% = high
Demographic makeup of student pop........................................50% = high
Ability for the school to serve as catalyst for future repop.....60% = high
School is above flood elevation....................................................36% = high
36% = medium
Cultural significance of school building.......................................44% = medium
42% = high
Historic or architectural significance of school building...........49% = high
Potential for school building expansion on site.........................62% = high
Potential for expanding schools into new sites..........................55% = high
Availability for open space at or near school site......................66% = high
Availability of athletic fields at or near school site....................66% = high
Availability of large performance venue at/near school site...50% = high
School is within walking dist. of the neighborhood it serves....67% = high
School is near public transportation............................................67% = high
School is near libraries, health clinics or other comm. services..66% = high

Community use of school after hours and on weekends....very important (84%)
Maximum walking distance to elementary school......................1/2 mile (84%)
Maximum walking distance to high school................................ 1 mile (42.2%)
School construction with unlimited facility (44.5%)
cost effective (34.4 %)
Alternative school property use (33%)

Exhibit D: Lake Forest Montessori School, March 4, 2008, approx. 2 PM:

The sign attached to the fence has an address for Lake Forest Elementary Charter, on Hayne Blvd, which leads us to...

Exhibit E:

Old Lake Forest Montessori to New Lake Forest Charter
Total Est. Distance: 3.57 miles

So now the folks who wanted quality schooling for their children in the area Lake Forest Montessori used to serve must now enroll their kids in private schools or get in a car and schlep to the lakefront.

I'm intrigued now. I wish I were able to attend tonight's meeting to see if anybody knows of this. What was the RSD's detailed "school buildings demolition project" all about? We know the buildings were flooded. We also know that the buildings can be knocked down - it's happening all over the city.

How did the RSD "finalize" their demolition plans if the community meeting was going on tonight? Did they use a time machine? Did they read minds?

Do they really care about what the community thinks?

Does the word "farce" come to mind?