Statement on Lusher Name Change

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For many years, members of the community have been pushing for Lusher Charter School to change its name due to the fact that its namesake, Robert Mills Lusher, was a segregationist who worked to deny BIPOC children access to an education in the City of New Orleans.  On September 30, 2021, Advocates for Arts Based Education, the board that governs Lusher Charter School, voted to change the name of the school and set forth a process for selecting a new name.  United Teachers of New Orleans fully supports changing the name of Lusher Charter School.  However, we are concerned that the process adopted is designed to silence the community and to ensure that no meaningful change is made.

The process of narrowing hundreds of name suggestions down to a short list of 11 names released last week has been completely opaque and exclusive, with a small number of board members and administrators making all of the decisions regarding how names are vetted, how input is heard, and which options are moved to the short list. The only input from the community came in the form of a single survey asking for name suggestions whose results have not been released or even referenced.

Perhaps the most disappointing outcome of the renaming process so far is the inclusion of two different “Lusher”s being included in the short list of potential new names for the school.

One version, Lusher Charter School of Academic Excellence, Diversity and the Arts, is a slap in the face of the entire renaming process, making a mockery of the pain and heartache that many members of our community have expressed over the last several years.  Simply adding the word “Diversity” to the name does not change the fact that our BIPOC students are forced to attend a school bearing the name of a man who viewed them as second-class citizens who did not have the right to an education.

The second attempt to not really change the name is, Lusher Charter School - In Honor of Dr. Jeanne Marie Lusher.  This is a blatant attempt to keep the current name by finding someone with the same last name as the segregationist Robert Mills Lusher. Dr. Jeanne Marie Lusher spent a few years of her medical residency in New Orleans, but has no other connection to the city, and certainly would not even be a candidate for the renaming process except that she happens to have the same last name as the school’s current namesake.

According to the comments released with the short list, the two attempts to change the name while retaining the name Lusher are in response to “concerns about a loss of branding and the anticipated financial impact.”  This is an insult to our BIPOC students and to our lower-income families.  United Teachers of New Orleans believes that financial concerns are not an excuse to maintain racist structures.  We believe that any new name must not retain the name Lusher in any form.

As evidenced by the inclusion of two Lushers in a list of potential new names for Lusher Charter School, the process enacted to select a new name is fatally flawed.  In order to remedy the situation, Advocates for Arts Based Education must slow down the name selection process and enact ways for meaningful community participation in the decision making process.