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William Frantz Public School

A Story of Race, Resistance, Resiliency, and Recovery in New Orleans


Connie L. Schaffer, Meg White and Martha Graham Viator

Why should you care about what happened to William Frantz Public School? Yes, Ruby Bridges entered the iconic doors of William Frantz in 1960, but the building’s unique role in New Orleans school desegregation is only one part of the important history of this school. Many additional and equally important stories have unfolded within its walls and the neighborhoods surrounding it. These stories matter.

It matters that society has historically marginalized Black students and continues to do so. It matters that attempts to dismantle systemic racism in schools and other institutions still face strong resistance, and these issues continue to deeply divide the United States. It matters that the building remains standing as an indomitable symbol of the resiliency of public education despite decades of waning support, misguided accountability, and a city devasted by Hurricane Katrina. It matters that opportunism, under the guise of recovery, reshaped public education in New Orleans.

William Frantz Public School: A Story of Race, Resistance, Resiliency, and Recovery in New Orleans provides more than an examination of education in one school and one city. It recounts a story that matters to anyone who cares about public education.

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5. And Then It Was After



And Then It Was After

Examining the first decade of the 21st century, the city of New Orleans can be viewed through the lens of before and after. Hurricane Katrina, cited as the worst set of natural and man-made catastrophes for an American city at the time, became the tipping point in the city’s timeline and for thousands of its residents. In the aftermath of this horrific disaster, scholars and the press often referred to pre-Katrina and post-Katrina in writing about New Orleans, including the city’s public schools. In August 2005, Mother Nature added a significant bookmark in the pages of the William Frantz Public School’s story. Before the bookmark, the pages included stories of the Upper Ninth Ward, school desegregation, and a public school system struggling in a context of underfunding, increasing numbers of high-need students, and growing demands for accountability. In the pages after the bookmark, familiar characters such as the Orleans Parish School Board and the district’s superintendent assumed a lesser role. As familiar characters temporarily faded into the background, other characters, including the Recovery School District and charter schools, emerged to take on a more central role in the story.

Before, in the pre-Katrina years leading up to 2005, multiple and highly visible cases of corruption plagued the Orleans Parish school district, creating an environment of distrust. The culture of corruption spread beyond the school district to include the city of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana....

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