NEW ORLEANS– The nation-wide debate about renaming institutions is taking shape at one of the city’s top K-12 schools.
School administrators are considering changing the school’s name because Lusher’s named after a known segregationist—Robert Mills Lusher. He was the Louisiana State Superintendent of Education in the 1860’s and 1870’s.
There is currently a Change.org petition to change the name of the school.
Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes, CEO of Ashe Cultural Arts Center believes names hold power and thinks this is a step in the right direction.
“I think this is a great step. I thank the courage of the leadership of that organization to cease this moment. Naming is how we understand our place in the world and when we name something it denotes something very important. We name our children. We know our buildings,” she said.
Now this isn’t the first time that the name issue has come up. Back in 1976, Robert Mills was dropped in the name and now the school is just known as Lusher.
“I’m very clear on what Mr. Lusher believed and what he believed about me. As a person, and what he thought of my children, so to send my children to a school named after him certainly has to be problematic for any black person to do so,” she said.
Kathy Riedlinger, CEO, Lusher Charter School released this statement:
“I am conferring with the Lusher board and formulating a process in accordance with NOLA-PS policy to consider changing the name of the school. We are listening to our school community and will be communicating soon on what the process will look like.”
Also Riedlinger sent this letter to the Lusher community:
Through Lusher’s ongoing Strategic Planning process, we have created a road map for our school’s future. The process included stakeholder surveys, interviews, focus groups and planning sessions that included teachers, parents, administrators, board members and community members. Work this year has focused on Student and Staff Recruitment, Community Partnerships, Cultural Sensitivity and Celebration of Diversity. We are examining how to increase our school’s racial and academic diversity. This includes a recruitment effort on the part of Willow staff to reach out to preK programs in the surrounding community.
We are expanding our relationship with the Anti-Defamation League and LSU’s Department of Psychology to ensure that we continue to address issues for the benefit of all students, staff and families. LSU’s Dr. Anna Long is an Assistant Professor in the School Psychology Program and Chair of the Committee on Diversity and Outreach in Psychology. Her lab, Cultural Responsiveness and Implementation Science in Psychology (CRISP), designed a multi-tiered system of support for school-based mental health services for Lusher’s high school in 2019. The partnership is growing in 2020 to include assisting Lusher in designing systems for mental health and social-emotional behavioral supports across our campuses.
LSU is also supporting Lusher’s administration and teacher leaders in developing immediate action steps regarding current events surrounding race and equity, and will support Lusher in developing a long-term plan to guide its response throughout the year. Immediate steps will include strategies and training to provide for the academic, mental health and behavioral health needs of the almost 2,000 students that we will welcome back in August.
This community has always come together in times of crisis, from the integration of schools in the 1960s to Hurricane Katrina. Relying on that resilience, we will work as a team to surround our children with the support they need, now and throughout the school year.