Look How Far We’ve Come: OPSB Approves School Unification Plan

“Just Think How Far We’ve Come”

Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr., August 29, 2016

The Orleans Parish School Board unanimously approved a Unification Plan outlining the return of schools to the elected board. 

With the adoption of this plan, the school board has embraced a shared vision for the unified school district that builds upon the changes since Katrina and commits to continuing improvement.

The Vision

A locally elected school board will govern a system of schools in a district that is over 90% charter schools, provides school choice for all families, and expressly commits to ensuring equity and recognizing the need for differentiated resources based on student need.

A slide from the superintendent’s presentation to the school board captures this vision:  


Specifically, the board embraced five guiding principles.


A New Role for the District

The district’s primary role is no longer to operate schools, but to set the policy framework, monitor school performance, and take action when a school is not performing or not following policy. Schools are responsible for hiring and firing personnel, picking the curriculum, training staff, and controlling budgets.

Roles and responsibilities are outlined in this slide: 

The superintendent and his team are still responsible for the district’s academic performance, but the tools – or levers – that will drive improvement are quite different than those used by a traditional school district. Instead of operating schools, the district must – in policy and action – drive academic improvement by how it manages the autonomous schools under its control – its “portfolio” of school operators. The district’s primary lever to improve performance is to replace school operators that are not performing well, encourage the good operators to expand, and find and support high quality new operators.

What’s next?

The board’s approval of this plan is the first step, but it leaves officials with lots of decisions to make and deadlines to meet. There will be many challenges ahead, but the board’s unanimous adoption of this plan is an auspicious beginning.

For more information on the Unification Plan and the return of schools, see: