National Education Summit in New Orleans Addresses School Reform Strategies

May 7, 2007

NEW ORLEANS, LA – May 7, 2007 – New Leaders for New Schools, a nonprofit organization that recruits and trains outstanding principals and supports their schools in order to boost academic achievement and transform urban public schools, and NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit venture philanthropy firm focused on transforming public education by supporting education entrepreneurs and connecting their work to systems change, today announced the convening of their 2007 National Summit in New Orleans, Louisiana. The four-day Summit, which began on Saturday with remarks by U.S. Senator Barack Obama, has attracted more than 1,000 participants from across the country to discuss school reform strategies and progress to date at both the national level and in the city of New Orleans, where the community has begun to develop a new, high-quality system of public schools that are designed to better meet students’ needs in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The diverse group of education stakeholders participating in the Summit includes urban educators, business executives, philanthropists, school district leaders, policymakers, elected officials and entrepreneurs. They have come to New Orleans to engage in critical dialogue and creative problem-solving around the challenges that face public education, with a focus on low-income and minority students. The shared goal is to create high-performing systems of public schools in New Orleans and across the United States that serve all students well.

“Great schools are led by great principals, and New Leaders is dedicated to developing talented principals and supporting them and their schools. Together as a community we can revitalize public schools in New Orleans and across the nation,” said Jon Schnur, CEO and co-founder of New Leaders for New Schools. “In bringing together our organization’s principals with nationally renowned experts, we are creating a unique opportunity for conversation around the state of our schools and the need for change. We hope the Summit highlights both the work that has been done to date and the work that still needs to be done here and elsewhere to ensure that our public schools provide our children with the education they need and deserve.”

“The children of New Orleans, like students across all our nation’s cities, need and deserve access to a high-quality public education,” said Ted Mitchell, CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund. “This gathering is an important opportunity for this exceptional group of leaders to support and to learn from the New Orleans community as they only rebuild their public schools, but create a new model for a high-performing system of public education. At the same time, we will connect this important work with other innovative efforts taking place across the country that hold promise for improving our public schools so that they serve all students well.”

At Saturday’s kick-off event at the Pierre A. Capdau-UNO Charter School, Senator Barack Obama said, “When it comes to education in New Orleans, it’s not enough to just clean up damage from the storm. We have to clean up the damage from before the levees broke.”

Other events featured at the National Education Summit include:

  • On Sunday, May 6, a service day at the Pierre A. Capdau-UNO Charter School;
  • On Monday May 7, a panel discussion on “Promising Strategies for Education Reform Nationwide” accompanied by remarks from the Hon. George Miller, Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives-Committee on Education; and
  • On Tuesday, May 8, a media briefing addressing the state of education in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and featuring Jon Schnur, Ted Mitchell, Sarah Newell Usdin, Founder of New Schools for New Orleans, and Anthony Recasner, Principal and Director of the Samuel L. Green Charter School and President of the Louisiana Charter Schools Association.

“It’s inspiring to see all these people come together and apply their collective wisdom to one of the most difficult problems our country faces,” said U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu. “The training and support New Leaders for New Schools is providing to principals in cities like Chicago, Washington, DC and Milwaukee is beginning to pay off in terms of real student achievement. New Leaders is critical to the work we’re doing here in New Orleans to rebuild our schools and reverse their historical record of low performance.”

Key speakers and participants in the Summit include:

  • Richard Barth, CEO, Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP);
  • Superintendent Michael Bennett, Denver Public Schools;
  • Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City;
  • Barbara Byrd-Bennett, former CEO, Cleveland School District;
  • Superintendent Michael Contompasis, Boston Public Schools;
  • Walter Isaacson, President and CEO, Aspen Institute and former Chairman and CEO, CNN;
  • U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, Louisiana;
  • U.S. Representative George Miller, California;
  • Mayor Ray Nagin, New Orleans;
  • U.S. Senator Barack Obama, Illinois;
  • State Superintendent Paul Pastorek, Louisiana;
  • Chairman Donald Powell, Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding;
  • Victor Reinoso, Deputy Mayor of Public Education, District of Columbia;
  • Paul Vallas, Superintendent, Recovery School District in Louisiana and former CEO, School District of Philadelphia; and
  • Former Governor Mark Warner, Virginia.

New Leaders for New Schools is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the transformation of urban education. The organization recruits and trains outstanding principals in order to boost academic achievement in urban public schools and provides support to enable these schools to succeed. Since its founding in 2000, New Leaders has trained more than 330 principals who are working to improve academic achievement for 200,000 students in regions around the country, including New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Memphis, Milwaukee, and Oakland. New Leaders has just announced plans to recruit and train principals for 40 of New Orleans’ public schools.

NewSchools Venture Fund is a venture philanthropy firm founded in 1998 that is working to transform public education by supporting education entrepreneurs and connecting their work to systems change. Through its first two funds, NewSchools invested more than $70 million in 30 entrepreneurial ventures that have made a measurable difference in the lives of millions of students across the country. Its third fund will focus on fueling the growth and quality of the charter school movement and on supporting the people, tools and practices needed for public school systems to become performance-driven organizations.