It all started with one simple idea: that community investment is the essential element in an outstanding public education system.
OPEN ensures an informed and engaged community that exercises influence on policy and practice in service of quality public educational opportunities and outcomes.
COMMUNITY: We engage and organize a cross-section of local residents and groups to collect and analyze perspectives and data, making policy recommendations that positively impact K-12 learning experiences and student outcomes
EDUCATION: We expand community's skills to engage in the policy process through trainings, professional development, and analysis of quality research
POLICY: We amplify community voice through participatory public policy development, advocacy, and programming that impacts student access, persistence and school success
The end result? A cadre of citizens that:
• collaboratively and holistically advocate for local solutions to local issues,
• promote homegrown leadership at every level from the classroom to the board room to the living room to the church,
• reflect the unique character of a community and its place, inspiring public will and sustained investment, and
• integrate the school and its village to create whole-child education experiences.
VISION & VALUES
We envision a New Orleans where public policy decisions are inclusive, transparent, and community-aligned. Where all residents, regardless of race or economic status, are given equal access to excellent education. Where schools serve students in environments that affirm their self-concepts, draw on the strengths of the local culture, and fully and respectfully engage their family units.
We envision a city where quality education creates an informed citizenry, a stronger economy, an upwardly mobile workforce, and a bright future.
OPEN has always situated itself directly in the middle of the latest conversations around what’s best for students and schools; soliciting, gathering and centering community voice in those discussions.
OPEN was created in late 2007 when several groups — the Committee for a Better New Orleans, Greater New Orleans Foundation, Urban League of Greater New Orleans, Children’s Defense Fund, Louisiana Justice Institute, and more — began discussing the depleted conditions of the New Orleans public school district. As they discussed what could be done to establish a sustainable and effective education reform movement, the groups confronted deep-seated distrust and historical race and class tensions. In 2009, almost four years into New Orleans’ post-Katrina education reforms, this collaborative recognized there was not a pulse on the public sentiment and formally chartered the Orleans Public Education Network.
Seven years later, with more than 3,000 citizens engaged across the city, we’re still hard at work expanding knowledge of effective policy and programming, engaging community members in the conversation, and amplifying their collective voices to impact education's most relevant issues. We’re honoring the best and brightest in our school system. We’re reaching across dividing lines of race and class to build a path forward: a path toward an excellent, equitable, and community-aligned school experience for every student in New Orleans and beyond.
OPEN's accomplishments include:
• Producing The People's Agenda, a community-developed blueprint for quality public education by 2020
• Convening the Coalition for Community Leadership in Education (CCLE) to help local community groups charter their own schools
• Co-chairing the Recovery School District Community Taskforce that brought community demand for clarity and transparency into the OneApp enrollment process
• Spearheading New Orleans' first Born Learning Trail, a family discovery walk that stimulates child development through developmental activity stations
As the schools begin an 18-month process to unify under one system authorized by the Orleans Parish School Board and largely governed by independent charter management organizations, OPEN continues to engage the community at large around the most timely issues in policy and practice that will lead to all students having better opportunities for economic advancement, and to live, grow and raise families in stable and healthy communities.
For the first 10 years after Katrina, school reform conversations have been centered around "what is best to build." Now, as the city turns the corner into the next decade and beyond, the central concern is now "what is best to operate and sustain." OPEN is here to ensure that the people access their inviolable right to govern the institutions that directly serve them. OPEN continues its call for civic engagement and deliberate solution building.
CURRENT PROGRAMS & INITIATIVES
The Education Policy Fellowship Program
Preparing high-potential education professionals for leadership through professional development, networking, and policy training; now on its second cohort.
The Family Leadership Training Institute
Free and open to the public program that co-trains parents and children in advocacy, media, fundraising, public relations and more to help them become change agents in their schools and communities; now on its fifth cohort.
The Orleans Public Education Awards
A yearly event, now on its fourth iteration, that lifts up excellence in our school system: telling the untold stories, celebrating exceptional schools, and shining a light on "what works and why." Click here to find out more.