Beyond Statements: How NSNO is Taking Action

June 9, 2020

In the past few days, I have read powerful statements from individuals and organizations condemning the racist murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. NSNO has made our own.

But now comes the hard part. Statements are important, but statements without actions are false promises. Denouncing racism is not enough; you must actively pursue racial equity. You must audit your own actions and those of organizations in which you are involved for the ways in which they perpetuate systems of oppression. That requires more than a tweet or a single conversation. At NSNO, our job is to support schools, and in so doing, support students—in New Orleans, 91% of them are people of color.

Every single action we take, at NSNO, fuels our pursuit of racial equity. One of our values is equity, and the otherspassion, excellence, and solutionsare all tied to this fight. Our work continually evolves, but it did not begin with the recent protests, and it will never endthe fight for justice is at the foundation of our efforts. By sharing this, I hope to start a conversation, spur others to take action, and to hold ourselves accountable to take new and more action where it is needed.

Internally, NSNO works to ensure that our hiring practices result in a diverse pool of excellent candidates. In my time at NSNO, we have prioritized using our funds to support people of color in hiring and purchasingfrom hiring Black-led consulting groups like The Papyrus Group, to banking with the Black-owned Liberty Bank, to catering office events with Black-owned restaurants. To continue to push ourselves as individuals and as a team, NSNO’s staff engages in quarterly diversity, equity, and inclusion sessions with Visions, an organization led by a woman of color.

And all of our prioritiestalent, portfolio, policy, curriculum, and communicationsare grounded in the work for racial equity. Educational equity is inextricably linked with racial equity, and we cannot move toward one without the other:

PRIORITY: TALENT

PRIORITY: PORTFOLIO

PRIORITY: POLICY

  • We worked with NOLA Public Schools to allocate almost $7 million over the next three years from their Systemwide Needs Fund to be used for teacher preparation and development, particularly for teachers of color.

  • We advocated and raised funds to address the educational inequity deepened by a lack of access to technology in this moment of distance learning. We have been part of the work to connect our city’s public school students, 91% of whom are people of color, to the internet. Our New Orleans Technology Access Fund has raised nearly $700,000 to offset the costs of NOLA-PS’ purchase of wi-fi hotspots.

PRIORITY: CURRICULUM

  • We fund schools’ purchase of “Tier 1” curricula (curricula designated by the state as the highest quality and aligned with state standards), as well as support in implementing them. We have frequent touchpoints with all school leaders, 54% of whom were people of color in 2018-19.

  • We launched our flagship initiative, the Instructional Quality Initiative, by joining forces with the Louisiana Department of Education to send hundreds of educators to a workshop led by UnboundEd called the Standards Institute. This workshop centered around equity in instruction and creating equitable classroom environments.

  • Our work means that more New Orleans’ students—91% of whom are people of color—have access to the highest quality curriculum. Prior to the Instructional Quality Initiative, for instance, just 18% of our city’s schools were using Tier 1 English Language Arts curriculum. Now, 65% are. This has a powerful effect on the learning of our children of color.

PRIORITY: COMMUNICATIONS

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