February 14, 2004
In order to harbor better community relations with the city of New Orleans, Tulane is currently discussing plans to help create a magnet high school in the New Orleans Parish school system in conjunction with the Lusher Elementary and Middle Schools.
The idea arose from talks between Tulane President Scott Cowen and New Orleans Parish Superintendent Tony Amato last fall. Tulane law professor and spokesperson for Cowen on the issue Paul Barron said Tulane has offered to help Lusher raise the funds to cover costs of the actual start-up process. The proposed symbiotic partnership would benefit both Tulane and Lusher High School, Barron said.
"We have an enormous interest in the public schools getting better. And that directly -- in a subtle way -- benefits Tulane."
Barron said the close relationship between Lusher and Tulane would increase the level of diversity at Tulane. Lusher Elementary and Lusher Middle School are currently considered model schools for their racial and economic diversity, with a 60 percent minority population.
"If we look at the Lusher Middle [School] population, we can expect that level of diversity at the high school," Vice President of the New Orleans Parish School Board Una Anderson said.
In conjunction with the Tulane-Lusher project, Tulane would use University faculty and staff to teach classes at the high school, as well as offer juniors and seniors attending Lusher to take classes on the University's campus.
"We believe that we will get lots of grants from foundations once they hear about the partnership to help support it so we'll be able to hire the faculty necessary to teach the sections," Barron said. The plan proposes that University departments will add additional sections to Uptown courses to accommodate for the Lusher students that will be in the classes. Anderson said that the ability for juniors at Lusher to take courses at Tulane "builds that bridge between high school and college, especially for students who may be the first person going to college in their family."
The Orleans Parish School Board met Feb. 5 and moved the issue of creating a Lusher High School to the business agenda for conceptual approval at their next meeting, which will be held Monday, February 16.
"The Board has not officially voted to endorse the concept, but I believe that there is a lot of positive feeling around the concept," Anderson said. Barron said Tulane's help in starting the school would ensure that the Board would not bear a financial burden. "Every student within the public school system carries with them a sum of money that the state gives the school system to educate that student, so whether the student is educated here or there, that money comes with them," Barron said. "It doesn't cost the Board any money if the high-achieving kids are here, and in fact, if we keep kids who are leaving, then the board gets more operating dollars."
The Board is also interested in targeting students who would otherwise go to private schools. "After the eighth grade we lose a lot of public school students to the private school system. Since money follows those students, we'd like to keep them," Anderson said. "The more students we can keep in the public school system, the more diverse the student body will be."
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