Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr. Superintendent, NOLA Public Schools
This past Saturday marked the 60th Anniversary of the Desegregation of New Orleans Public Schools – an historic event not just for New Orleanians, but for the entire nation. On Nov. 14, 1960 Ruby Bridges, Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost, and Gail Etienne became the first African American students to be integrated into what had previously been all-White public schools in New Orleans.
Together, these brave young women changed history and took an important step on the long road towards equity and racial justice. Last Friday, it was my honor to join students from Akili Academy as they took part in the “Ruby Walk” – following the path 6-year-old Ruby Bridges took to her first day of school in 1960. Together, we walked through the school’s halls, toured Ms. Bridges’ original classroom and ended the walk by the Ruby Bridges Statue in the school’s courtyard.
While we walked in honor of the bravery of these four young women, we did so with the recognition that the best way to truly honor their legacies is to build on the foundation that they started 60 years ago. The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) and NOLA-PS are continuously striving to ensure equity and racial justice remain a priority and a hallmark of the NOLA school community. That’s why, this past summer, the OPSB passed a resolution to advance a racial equity audit on all policies in the District with the goal of ensuring that inherent or systematic racism does not affect outcomes and experiences for NOLA-PS students and their families. While this is an important step forward, we know there is still so much work that needs to be done for us to best serve our students, staff, and community.
The examples we set and lessons we teach our students today will help shape the type of grown adults they become tomorrow. We remain dedicated to following in the footsteps of Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost, Gail Etienne, and Ruby Bridges so that future generations understand that equity is a fundamental right.
As we head towards the Thanksgiving Holiday, we should all take time to reflect on the many things we have to be thankful for. For me, I’m thankful for my family, the thousands of incredible students, teachers, and families that make up our school community, and the strength of our community in the toughest of times.
At the same time, we must all remember that we are still in the midst of a Pandemic – one that requires us to keep our guard up and continue to adhere to safety measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. While our metrics remain strong and schools will remain open at this time, COVID-19 cases are on the rise again. We know it’s not easy, but for the safety of our school community and all New Orleanians, I urge everyone to please limit your contact with people outside of your immediate family during the holidays. Let’s all mask up, stay socially distanced, and wash our hands. There are 45,000 students depending on it.
Together, we can do this.
Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr., Superintendent, NOLA Public Schools recently joined students from Akili Academy as they took part in the “Ruby Walk” – following the path 6-year-old Ruby Bridges took to her first day of school in 1960. Together, we walked through the school’s halls, toured Ms. Bridges’ original classroom and ended the walk by the Ruby Bridges Statue in the school’s courtyard.