Both Landry and Carver are currently being managed by the RSD, but may be chartered as soon as nextt
October 4, 2010
year L.B. Landry High School in Algiers has shaky start
Published: Monday, October 04, 2010, 8:00 AM
Cindy Chang, The Times-Picayune
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Less than two months after reopening in a new $54 million building, L.B. Landry High School is struggling to get off the ground.
Susan Poag, The Times-PicayuneLandry is one of two new high schools built with the first chunk of a $1.8 billion FEMA settlement.
The Algiers school, which had been closed since its former building was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, had to scramble to find enough students. In June, Principal Eric Richard was replaced by Natalie Franklin.
Share 7 Comments Then last month, Recovery School District Superintendent Paul Vallas ousted Franklin and moved in Carver High School principal Lee Green, amid reports of teacher shortages and fighting in the halls.
When Green arrived at Landry, a month into the school year, he said he found himself taking care of matters that are usually opening-week business. Guidance counselors were working through weekends to rejigger schedules. Students took long-overdue assessment tests and got ID cards for the first time.
Discipline was 'a problem'
Alana Robinson said she was on the verge of removing her daughter, who had attended private school until this year, from Landry. The fights in the hallways were scary, and the 10th-grader's constantly shifting schedule often did not include the cosmetology program that had attracted her to the school in the first place.
"I feel sorry for the children. They're way behind. It's a little upsetting as a parent -- I'm not used to that," said Robinson, who will also be a substitute teacher at the school. "With the new principal, there's been some improvement. Discipline was a problem, but hopefully he'll get it together."
Darryl Williams, who recently resigned as president of the Friends of Landry alumni group after taking a position at the school, said the early troubles have forced his alma mater to rehabilitate its image, but things are on the right track now.
"Come see for yourself. Learning is taking place here," he said.
Susan Poag,The Times-Picayune SUSAN POAG / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE L.B. Landry Principal Lee Green helps tenth grader Sherriell Peters find her new class Wednesday, September 29, 2010 on the first day new schedules were implemented. Green, who was principal at Carver High School until a week ago, and has served as principal at McDonogh 32 Elementary in Algiers, is the third principal at the recently rebuilt $54 million school which opened earlier this year. "We are going to have structure and discipline,"said Green about his new tenure, stressing that he did not know what the problems were at the school before and that he wanted to work to build it into something that students,parents and staff could all be proud of.
Landry is one of two new high schools built with the first chunk of a $1.8 billion FEMA settlement. In the coming years, nearly all of the city's 80 or so schools will be rebuilt or substantially renovated.
Landry was to begin its first year after Katrina with only ninth-graders, but more students were needed to fill the 210,000-square-foot facility. In April, then-principal Richard announced that the school would also accept seventh-, eighth- and 10th-graders. Enrollment now stands at nearly 600 students.
Task will be difficult
Green acknowledged that the new facility, with its two gymnasiums, 650-seat auditorium, health clinic, six science labs and vocational-technology center, creates extra pressure for him.
"It's like walking around with a diamond and being afraid to drop it," Green said. "But it gives you accountability -- you're accountable to the school, the community, the parents."
Starting a new school requires a principal of uncommon ability, said Brian Riedlinger, CEO of the School Leadership Center.
As former head of the Algiers Charter Schools Association, Riedlinger was once Green's boss and has high respect for Green's work ethic. But in Riedlinger's mind, the task is so difficult that the only sure bet is someone who has done it successfully before.
"What we've seen in the past is when you combine kids from a lot of different neighborhoods, it takes somebody just extraordinary -- I don't mean good, I mean extraordinary -- to get these kids to think that this is their home school," Riedlinger said.
Many believe Green can provide a fresh start for Landry, which has over 70 years of pre-Katrina history and a dedicated alumni group. But at Carver High in the Ninth Ward, where Green began the year, faculty members say their school was shortchanged when Green left.
Vallas, who made the decision to transfer Green, said he always considered Franklin an interim principal. But he acknowledged that he replaced Franklin earlier than planned because of the "bumpy" beginning.
Franklin is now co-principal at Joseph S. Clark High School in Treme. Carver, which has experienced its share of upheavals in the last few years, is being headed by Toyia Washington, who has worked as an assistant principal there for the last three years, until a permanent replacement is found.
"We needed to get a strong leader in Landry," Vallas said. "The job he did at Carver gave me the confidence that we could move him to Landry and get a strong leadership team at Carver, not hurting Carver while at the same time helping Landry."
Reached by phone, Franklin said she had no comment.
The shake-ups at the two high schools are the latest example of the instability that has characterized post-Katrina public education in New Orleans, as charter schools spring up and many traditional schools are phased out.
Despite management shifts, personnel changes and moving schools between buildings, test scores have risen rapidly in the RSD, mainly due to the strong performance of many charters.
Vallas, however, has been criticized for his management of the 22 district-run schools, which remain some of the worst in the city. Both Landry and Carver are currently being managed by the RSD, but may be chartered as soon as next year.
Last Wednesday, a week after Green's arrival, Landry students were attempting to follow their revamped schedules for the first time. As they changed classes around 10 a.m., some were still learning how to navigate the expansive new building. Green wasn't taking any excuses.
"Move to class, or I'll move you myself!" he barked.
He ordered a girl to tuck her shirt in before chiding another group of girls about their uniforms.
"If I see you wearing that today, you're gonna be in trouble," Green said, referring to a student's non-uniform orange cardigan.
In one week at Landry, Green has made an impression on the students with his etiquette policing and habit of popping into classrooms unannounced. Nicknamed "the Energizer bunny" by colleagues, he goes on hall patrol when he can no longer bear to sit still in his office.
"He's more strict on us," said 10th grader Sherriell Peters.
Reputation as a principal
Green is no stranger to the West Bank. A resident of the Cutoff area for two decades, he made his reputation as a principal at McDonogh 32 Elementary School after the storm. In his first two years there, he raised the school performance score to 55.4 from a dismal 33.8.
Several of Green's top aides at McDonogh 32 have followed him to Carver and now Landry.
"32 was out of control, wild. I put structure in," Green said. "SPS scores jumped -- it's going to happen here."
Green gives ample credit to staff members, but his remarks betray a healthy self-confidence.
"I guarantee this school will be one of the best in the city in a short period of time," he said.
Vallas said he has been interviewing principals for months to fill the positions at Landry and other schools. Riedlinger said local superintendents have complained of a shortage of principal talent in the area, which may account for Vallas' decision to remove Green from Carver.
In response to the need, Riedlinger has started an alternative certification program that trains a hand-picked group of local educators to be principals.
Carver's building was also destroyed by Katrina, and the school has operated in modular buildings, plagued by persistent rumors that it would soon close. Last year, it was rocked by allegations that then-principal Vanessa Eugene and then-assistant principal Washington had given students advance copies of the Graduate Exit Exam.
Washington said the RSD found her innocent of the cheating charge over the summer. She plans to continue the policies that Green put in place, but that may be difficult if the school remains short-staffed after the departure of Green and his team.
"If we have the same resources, no changes will occur," Washington said. "If they take away and don't put back and create a void, that creates problems."
Carver math teacher Julie Heath questioned why Landry deserves Green more than her students do.
"The district should have enough respect for the school not to do that. It's not fair to yank one school's principal because another school needs it. If they need to hire a new administrator, they should do that," Heath said.
Cindy Chang can be reached at email@example.com or 504.826.3386.