Filed Under:  Education, Local, News

Cohen students continue protest

29th October 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Zoe Sullivan
Contributing Writer

Some students have continued to protest the firing of faculty and administration, including the principal and four teachers, from Walter L. Cohen High School in early October. The firings came six weeks into the academic year and followed on the heels of similar dismissals at the end of the 2011–2012 school year. Along with the firings, the Recovery School District announced that Future Is Now Schools would be taking over administration of Cohen. Cohen currently only serves 11th and 12th grade students. The 6th through 10th grades are being served by Cohen College Prep, a charter school operated by New Orleans College Prep.

According to parent advocate Ashana Bigard, several students have also received citations for truancy while protesting the situation in front of the school. The Recovery School District (RSD) truancy office did not respond to calls from The Louisiana Weekly requesting verification of this allegation.

Meagan McKinnon, Senior Class President at Cohen, said that while the situation was discouraging, she has been urging her classmates not to give up. She told The Louisiana Weekly that she reminds others not to be “hard on yourselves because it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

The students led a walk out on October 5, a day after learning about the shake up. They developed a list of demands, which they presented to RSD officials. According to McKinnon, the response to these demands “was the complete opposite of what we asked for.”

RSD Deputy Superintendent Dana Peterson responded to an email inquiry from The Louisiana Weekly regarding McKinnon’s allegation stating: “We have responded to the student’s concerns.”

Other student and alumni groups have rallied to support the Cohen, and local pastors held a meeting to discuss the situation and offer their allegiance. Students and alumni from L.B. Landry High School, which lost its athletic director “Skip” Lamont and a math teacher, represent one group that has placed itself in the Cohen students’ corner. Kenneth Grooms, a Landry alumnus and founder of a non-profit tutoring organization, told The Louisiana Weekly that he considered Cohen to be “a similar type situation”

School Performance Scores for the 2011-2012 academic year were released this week by the State Department of Education. Cohen’s score registered a 36.6 point increase over its 2011 Baseline Performance Score to its 2012 Growth Performance Score.

Bigard expressed her concern about the replacement faculty at Cohen. “They don’t have a chemistry teacher, and that means that 12 seniors will not graduate.”

Asked about this, Peterson said that he was following up with Future Is Now and would respond as soon as possible.

Asked about the community outcry over the events at Cohen, McKinnon affirmed that she and her classmates are in charge. “No adults have talked for us. This is our fight. The adults have had their diplomas, and this is what we’re fighting for.”

This article originally published in the October 29, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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