If you should read Eve Ewing’s Ghosts in the Schoolyard, you will have the context for understanding the incessant disruption imposed on the students and parents of New Orleans. Parents were fearful that the superintendent planned to close schools and scatter their children.
At a recent meeting, the superintendent announced that he was closing five low-performing charter schools and approving a new group of charters. The superintendent, Henderson Lewis Jr., stressed how difficult these decisions were.

“This month has been a test for myself, my staff, this board and our system as a whole,” Lewis said. “It tested our courage, our consistency, and it tested humility.”

Parents were furious. They did not praise the superintendent and his staff for their courage and humility.

Because these were action items, the public was finally allowed to speak, and the meeting became heated at times. However, when speakers veered off topic — to school closures, for example — they were asked to leave the podium.

At one point, as the board asked a woman to stop talking the crowd reacted in a chant: “Let her talk! Let her talk! Let her talk!”

At another moment, organizer Ashana Bigard spoke from the audience.

“You represent us, when did you ask us?” Bigard asked. “Did anybody sit in a meeting where we discussed these changes?”

A collective “no” was the response.

Several speakers and people in the audience called for the district to directly run its schools.

One woman specifically criticized the nearly all-charter district. “Y’all are passing out charters like you’re Oprah or something. You get a charter. You get a charter. You get a charter.”

Another speaker pleaded with the board: “After tonight, please don’t close or charter any other school. If you’ve got a problem with administration, run the school don’t close the school.”

After the meeting, Bigard said she planned to help parents organize.

“We are organizing parents that want to come together to get real democracy and real choice,” she said. “We’re going to start our recall campaign tomorrow.”

She said she was particularly concerned with the trauma students experience when they’re moved from school to school.

“They’re picking on special needs children and black and brown children,” she said. “They get the least when they’re supposed to get the most.”

Forty percent of the charter schools in New Orleans are rated D or F. All of them are overwhelmingly black.

The superintendent thinks that he can make all of them excellent schools if he keeps closing those with low grades.