Refugee Louisiana Principal Seeks Ways to Help Victims

By Jeff Archer — September 01, 2005 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Includes updates and/or revisions

When Donna Berggren, a principal from Jefferson Parish, La., arrived in the Houston area late Sunday night after an 11-hour, bumper-to-bumper trek to escape the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, she did what she knows best.

She called the Houston Independent School District to offer to assist with the stream of students flowing in from her home state. She volunteered to hand out school registration forms at Red Cross shelters. And she sent a message that she was there to help to the central office of the suburban district where she’s now staying.

While states and districts across the storm-damaged region threw open the welcome mat to student refugees this week, Ms. Berggren felt that as a refugee herself, she had something extra to give the families displaced for what could be months: someone who knows where they came from.

“I thought maybe if we go and let these parents know that we’re from Louisiana, we’re from Jefferson Parish, and we’re here to help you take care of your children, that it would let them know it’s not all strangers here,” she said in a phone interview Sept. 1 from Deer Park, Texas, where she and six other members of her family were staying with friends.

Caravan to Houston

Ms. Berggren had received no word on the condition of her house or her school, Chateau Estates Elementary, which serves about 740 students, most of whom are from needy families. With about 50,000 students, the Jefferson Parish system sits between New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

“I’m thinking of little kids from school who live on streets that I know flood and I don’t know that they could afford to evacuate,” she said.

The last time she saw her school was when she left work on Friday, Aug. 26, three days before the storm hit. Although she and her staff knew it was coming, she said, she didn’t know until that weekend that it was headed directly at their area.

“I had teachers call me and say, ‘Should we go and move everything upstairs?’ ” she recalled. “And I said, ‘We can’t possibly do that.’ ”

Ms. Berggren drove to the Houston area in a three-car caravan that included her husband, two grown children, and 7-month-old grandchild. With the highways clogged with evacuees, the trip took more than twice the usual five hours. Still, she considered herself lucky to be staying in a house, instead of emergency housing.

“I feel so thankful and so blessed that my whole family is safe and we’re in a wonderful place and staying with wonderful people, and I just feel like we need to be out there doing what we can to help our fellow people from Louisiana,” she said, as she prepared to visit a shelter. “I cannot sit around and do nothing.”


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Pave the Path to Excellence in Math
Empower your students' math journey with Sue O'Connell, author of “Math in Practice” and “Navigating Numeracy.”
Content provided by hand2mind
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Combatting Teacher Shortages: Strategies for Classroom Balance and Learning Success
Learn from leaders in education as they share insights and strategies to support teachers and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Reading Instruction and AI: New Strategies for the Big Education Challenges of Our Time
Join the conversation as experts in the field explore these instructional pain points and offer game-changing guidance for K-12 leaders and educators.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Opinion Making Culturally Responsive Teaching Work: Zaretta Hammond Corrects 3 Big Misconceptions
The author and coach explains how to avoid several common mistakes in culturally responsive teaching.
10 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
Teaching Learning 'Acceleration' Is Hard to Do. These Districts Are Tackling the Challenge
Despite the buzz, acceleration hasn’t proved to be as popular as other learning-recovery strategies.
9 min read
EL teacher Katina Tibbetts looks at her computer during a 5th grade level Wit and Wisdom lesson at East Veterans Memorial Elementary in Gloucester, Mass., on Sept. 20, 2023.
Katina Tibbetts, a teacher who specializes in instruction for English learners, works with 5th-grade students during a lesson at East Veterans Memorial Elementary in Gloucester, Mass., on Sept. 20, 2023.
Libby O'Neill for Education Week
Teaching Spotlight Spotlight on Student Engagement & Motivation
This Spotlight will help you with insights into educators’ strategies for engagement, explore how podcasts are boosting engagement, and more.