recognition schools

School chief announces his picks for renaming McDonogh schools on Esplanade Avenue

By Domonique Tolliver, Mid-City Messenger

Orleans school Superintendent Henderson Lewis has chosen his suggested names for the schools to renamed across Orleans Parish. In the Mid-City area, the John McDonogh 28 and 15 buildings are up for renaming. 

Orleans Parish School Board is changing the names of the buildings only, not the charter schools they house. The Orleans Parish School Board stated in its announcement that the board only has the authority to change the physical name on any school building they own. The charter boards of the schools within those buildings decide whether to change the name of their academic program.

Community members across the city have advocated for school name changes for decades. More recently, the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 reignited the movement to rename schools named after slave owners or segregationists, resulting in the current renaming initiative.

The McDonogh name, seen on dozens of New Orleans schools, has long been controversial. John McDonogh was an early-19th century sugar plantation owner and businessman whose wealth was dependent on enslaved labor. He left most of his fortune to build schools for poor children in New Orleans and Baltimore.

Many of the schools named in his honor were renamed in the 1990s. The latest round of school renaming is aimed at the buildings, even when they house a school with a non-McDonogh name.

The McDonogh 28 building at 2733 Esplanade Ave. is currently home to ReNEW McDonogh City Park Academy. (Google Maps)

John McDonogh 28 

ReNEW McDonogh City Park Academy is currently in the McDonogh 28 building on Esplanade Avenue.

The name proposed to replace John McDonogh at 2733 Esplanade Ave. is Albert W. Dent, who served as president of Dillard University and an administrator at Flint-Goodridge Hospital.

Flint-Goodridge Hospital hired Dent to be superintendent of the new hospital facility in 1935. The hospital was important to African-Americans as it was the only teaching hospital for Black physicians and nurses to treat Black patients during the Jim Crow era. 

Dent was elected the third president of Dillard University in 1941 after successfully managing the hospital. During his 28 years at Dillard, he raised the endowment and established a college nursing program. 

Bricolage Academy is in the former Historic John McDonogh High School building at 2426 Esplanade Ave. (Jesse Baum, Mid-City Messenger)

John McDonogh High School 

Lewis supports replacing the name for the Historic John McDonogh Senior High with that of educators Elliot C. and Mary J. Willard. The building houses Bricolage Academy.

Elliot Willard was an Orleans Parish School Board member from 1998 to 2004 and a former principal of St. Augustine and Booker T. Washington high schools. He served briefly as an assistant superintendent at the Louisiana Department of Education before becoming principal of Booker T. Washington in 1977.

Mary Willard, the mother of 12 children, was a social studies teacher at John McDonough High and Alfred Lawless for over 20 years. Willard also founded and directed the Total Achievement Problem Prevention program, which reduced the rate of girls dropping out of school across the city.

The Willards, according to New Orleans Public Schools renaming committee,  “are loved and remembered for their numerous unselfish and generous works which helped many children and their families. ”

The administration welcomes public feedback on the proposed list through July 29. Feedback can be given via email to community@nolapublicschools.com and during the OPSB’s board meeting on July 29. See the NOLA-PS website for more information. 

Domonique Tolliver is a journalism student at Loyola University and a reporting intern at Uptown Messenger. She can be reached at djtolliv@my.loyno.edu.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated Bricolage Academy was in McDonogh 15, to be renamed for Homer Plessy. McDonogh 15, now Homer Plessy Community School, is in the French Quarter. Bricolage is in the former John McDonogh High School on Esplanade Avenue. 

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