** Please click here for The Slone Group’s high level timeline for the renaming process.
Although much if not all of this information is or was available on the school’s website or provided at duly noticed public meetings of the Advocates for Arts-Based Education Board (the “Board”) or its Renaming Committee, it is being provided in this report to address concerns expressed in the community about the transparency of the renaming process.
General Process and Time Line of Renaming Activities
On September 30, 2021, the Board voted to rename Lusher Charter School and, by a motion, charged a study group with arriving at three recommended names for the Board’s deliberation.
The Study Group, appointed by the Board President, held six meetings (10/13, 10/20, 10/22, 10/26, 11/01 and 11/08).
The first communication from the Study Group to the community was on October 15, 2021. In addition, the Lusher School website shared information through a designated header called “Renaming” at the top of the main page, which allowed for a link to the landing page. This page included an Overview, Criteria, Biographies, Facilities, and Process and Timeline.
Anyone who was interested in participating had two opportunities for input:
While reviewing community input, the Study Group considered every nomination presented and the respondents’ feedback.
After review and consideration of suggestions for the school’s new name, the Study Group recommended three names for the Board’s consideration: New Orleans School of Arts & Sciences, Lusher School – In Honor of Jeanne Marie Lusher, and Willow Charter School.
At its November 11, 2021 meeting, the Board considered the Study Group’s three non-binding name suggestions. The Board voted, 4-2, to remove the name Jeanne Marie Lusher from consideration and voted unanimously to defer consideration on new name to allow more time for identification/consideration of alternative name suggestions and additional community input. The Board President then appointed a new Study Group to spearhead this effort and to engage a consultant to assist.
At the December 2021 Board meeting, due to threats of litigation, the Board voted unanimously to form a Renaming Committee to undertake the work that had been assigned to the second Study Group.
The Renaming Committee has since held 5 public meetings (December 28, 2021, January 13, 2022, January 27, 2022, February 17, 2022, and March 10, 2022) at which information about its work was shared with attending members of the community and public.
At its first meeting on December 28, 2021, the Renaming Committee voted unanimously to form an advisory group to provide community input to the Renaming Committee, which would be made up of members representing the school’s administration, faculty/staff, students, and parents. The Renaming Committee also voted unanimously to vet/recommend consulting groups to the Board and explained that the selected consultant would formulate and implement a process and timeline for obtaining community input to inform its selection of new names to recommend to the Board. The Renaming Committee also voted unanimously to establish an initial timeline for it to hold meeting every two weeks, until further notice.
Two weeks later, on January 13, 2022, the Renaming Committee held its second meeting and voted unanimously to recommend the Sloan Group to the Board for the consultant role and voted unanimously to designate Ms. Norlita Parker Wells as a parent advisor to the committee and Kathy Riedlinger and Sheila Nelson as administration advisors.
Two weeks later, at its January 27, 2022 meeting, the Renaming Committee voted unanimously to designate Marquise Reine and Jewel Smith as its faculty advisors and voted unanimously to designate Liv Newman its second parent advisor. The Renaming Committee then discussed the status of the Sloan Group Contract, which was not then complete, and the process for selection of the Sloan Group and for identification and selection of committee advisors.
At its February 17, 2022 meeting (postponed from February 10), the Renaming Committee provided an update regarding the work of the Sloan Group and its planned work to assist in the renaming process. The Renaming Committee also voted unanimously to designate Nya Phillips and Ben Blevins as its student advisors and voted unanimously to designate Frank Israel to replace Sheila Nelson as an administration advisor. The Renaming Committee further voted to set parameters for its name recommendations to the Board. The parameters were later published on the Renaming page of the school’s website.
At its meeting on March 10, 2022, the Renaming Committee provided an update on the work completed and planned by the Sloan Group and provided a high-level timeline for that work. The Renaming Committee Chair explained that the timeline would be published and that the Renaming Committee did not plan to meet again until after completion of future work by the Sloan Group, which would include additional interviews with the committee advisors, a focus group meeting for name discussion and brainstorming among key persons, and a report by the Sloan Group to the Renaming Committee. The Sloan Group high level timeline has since been published on the Renaming page of the school’s website.
Since the March 10, 2022 meeting, at the direction of the Renaming Committee Chair, a link to a School Name Suggestion Form (March 18, 2022 to April 1, 2022) was published on the Renaming page of the school’s website. That form provides an opportunity for any interested person to suggest a new name for the school within the revised parameters set by the Renaming Committee.
The next meeting of the Renaming Committee has not yet been scheduled but will likely take place in early April so that the committee can make its non-binding name recommendations to the Board at the Board’s April 21, 2022 meeting.
Selection of the Sloan Group
In the summer of 2021, the Board President obtained several consultant groups recommendations from Caroline Roemer, Executive Director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools. In December 2021, he passed these recommendations on to Renaming Committee Chair. The Renaming Committee Chair contacted three of the recommended consultants, which included the Sloan Group. One recommended consultant could not undertake the work due to a conflicting work schedule but recommended another, fourth, consultant. The Renaming Committee Chair contacted this fourth consulting group. The Renaming Committee Chair reviewed information about the qualifications and experience of the recommended consultants and interviewed two of them, including the Sloan Group. Ultimately, the Renaming Committee Chair obtained two proposals, one from the Sloan Group and one from the fourth recommended consultant. Based on her research and the substance and costs of the proposals, the Renaming Committee Chair decided to recommend the Sloan Group to the Renaming Committee at the January 13, 2022 meeting. As she explained at the meeting, the two proposals were similar but the cost estimate of the Sloan Group proposal was more than three times less than the proposal from the fourth recommended consultant. As the Renaming Committee Chair further explained at that meeting, the Sloan Group excelled at the interview, demonstrating exceptional listening and facilitation skills. Based on the recommendation of the Renaming Committee Chair, the Renaming Committee voted to recommend the Sloan Group to the Board and the Board later voted unanimously in favor of hiring the Sloan Group.
Selection of Committee Advisors
Based on previous input from the community, at its first meeting in December 2021 the Renaming Committee voted to form a group of advisors to provide further input to the Renaming Committee as representatives of the school’s administration, faculty, students and parents. In order to avoid further delay, the Renaming Committee did not establish a formal process for selection of the advisors. Rather, Renaming Committee members sought to use existing structures (e.g., student government bodies, the school’s parent organization, and groups within its Strategic Planning process) and information from parents, administration and faculty to identify candidates to nominate to the Renaming Committee. For example, the first designated parent advisor (nominated by the Renaming Committee Chair) is a member of the board of the existing parent organization and was highly recommended by another parent on that board due to her demonstrated commitment to the welfare of the school through volunteer and leadership activities. At each meeting when a committee member nominated an advisor that committee member and/or others explained the nominee’s relationship to the school and the reasons for the nomination.