School Climate & Safety

Educators Wonder If They’ll Go Back to New Orleans

September 13, 2005 2 min read
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Hurricane Katrina has upended the lives of many educators from southeast Louisiana, including two principals from New Orleans who stopped by the East Baton Rouge district office last week to apply for jobs.

“I live about a half mile from the 17th Street canal, where they had the breach” that helped cause the flooding of the city, said Leonard M. Parker Jr., 47, who was uprooted from his job as the principal of a New Orleans elementary school. He’s applied for employment with the state department of education, and this day was trying his luck at the school district for the city where he had just rented an apartment for his family.

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Of the 80 staff members at his school, Mr. Parker said, he had heard from only 23 by Sept. 6. “I check every day,” he said.

Despite having lost practically all of his belongings, and possibly his home, Mr. Parker, an ordained minister, seemed in remarkably good spirits.

“You’ve got to have a positive frame of mind, and trust God and move on,” he said.

Sitting next to him, Monica Boudouin, a fellow New Orleans principal, said she agreed. She’s already registered her three children to attend the public schools in Baton Rouge. But while hopeful, she remained visibly upset. “I’ve cried till I can’t cry anymore,” she said, though moments later her eyes welled up.

No Place Like Home

Ms. Boudouin, 43, said that while she’s hoping to return to New Orleans eventually, a lot will depend on how things turn out for her family in the coming months.

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School Official Rides Out Storm

“My heart is still in New Orleans, and it will always be in New Orleans,” she said. But she said she may well decide to stay: “You don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Seated at another folding table in the East Baton Rouge district office, Dorothy J. Newell, a 55-year-old social worker in the 60,000-student New Orleans school system, was contemplating her own future as she applied for a job with the district.

Ms. Newell said her area of specialty would surely help under the circumstances.

“I know they will have a need for social workers for these kids,” she said.

She had ended up catching a ride to Dallas with just two days’ worth of clothing to escape the storm. But she came back to Baton Rouge to find a job to be as close as possible to New Orleans, where she hopes to be part of the effort to rebuild.

“I want to go home,” she said. “My name is Dorothy, and I want to be like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I want to click my heels, and I really want to go home.”

A version of this article appeared in the September 14, 2005 edition of Education Week as Educators Wonder If They’ll Go Back To New Orleans

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