OPSB Announces its Plan for McDonogh 35 Senior High School

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New Ninth Grade Academy to Open Under Inspire NOLA at Historic Public School

NEW ORLEANS – (Dec. 20, 2018) – Today, the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) announced its plan for student success and long-term stabilization of McDonogh 35.  The district has chosen Inspire NOLA as the future charter operator of McDonogh 35 Senior High School. McDonogh 35 High School will remain an open enrollment public school.

“This decision will restore and uplift the academic legacy of this much beloved school while maintaining its cultural importance,” stated Board President John A. Brown, Sr.

The chosen charter operator, which also oversees ‘A’ rated Edna Karr High School, was selected after several long and rigorous charter requests for application (RFA) cycles over the past few years.. With five schools under its charter currently, Inspire NOLA has a long history of transforming failing schools into high scoring programs in Orleans Parish.

The new ninth grade academy will open in the 2019-2020 school year. The open enrollment academy has already been added as an option on the OneApp as McDonogh #35 College Preparatory High School. With a desire to maintain the unique and storied legacy of McDonogh 35, under the new charter agreement the school will maintain its name, school colors and mascot. 

“McDonogh 35 is not just one of the most remarkable, historic high schools in our city, but the school has always produced graduates who excel in academics,” said Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr., Superintendent of Schools. “This decision was about ensuring that we can restore and continue that legacy of academic excellence. That is why we’ve made the decision to match this school with one of the highest performing charter management organization in our city. After weighing all of our options, we have no doubt that Inspire NOLA will advance the academic performance of McDonogh 35 High School to the next level for our students and families."

Since Hurricane Katrina, student performance at, McDonogh 35, one of the city’s most historic high schools, had fallen to a “D” according to the state Department of Education. “That is unacceptable for any high school, but especially for one as historic as McDonough 35,” stated to Dr. Lewis.

OPSB President Brown added, “Since 1917, McDonogh 35 has provided high quality high school education to African Americans. It produced many of our great leaders in politics and education. I know exactly what McDonogh 35 stands for, what it means to the community and what parents want for their children. Inspire NOLA prioritizes and maintains a diverse teaching staff and leadership team. I believe that with this type of focus, this operator will be a good fit for the school.”

Top graduates from McDonogh 35 have gone on to achieve recognition and prominence. Some of those graduates include:

·        Ernest Nathan Morial, first African-American mayor of New Orleans

·        Israel Meyer Augustine, Jr., first black elected judge of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court

·        Morris F.X. Jeff, Sr., former head of New Orleans Recreation Department's "colored" division

·        Joan Bernard Armstrong first female elected judge in Louisiana and first African American chief judge of the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

·        Neil Smith, former American football defensive end for the Kansas City Chiefs who played at the University of Nebraska and a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Denver Broncos

·        Dr. Calvin Mackie, award-winning mentor, motivational speaker, and successful entrepreneur

·        Michael Smith, NFL reporter for ESPN and a senior writer for ESPN.com

·        Michael S. Harrison, Superintendent, New Orleans Police Department

·        James Carter, Former Councilman, City of New Orleans

·        Jared Brossett, Councilman, City of New Orleans

·        Darryl Kilbert, Former Superintendent of Orleans Parish School Board

·        Wesley Bishop Senator, Louisiana State Senate

Inspire NOLA is the top open admission charter management organization in New Orleans, serving more than 3,700 students in five schools including Alice Harte Charter School, Edna Karr High School, Andrew Wilson Charter School, 42 Charter School, Eleanor McMain Secondary School and Dwight Eisenhower. Edna Karr High School received a 104.3 SPS score and is in the Top 4 of open enrollment schools in the city. The charter operator hopes to bring this level of excellence to the new program at McDonogh 35 and has a track record of significantly improving academic performance of struggling schools.

Inspire NOLA is led by Jamar Mckneely.  Mr. Mckneely, who is the only African American male charter operator CEO in New Orleans, maintains a diverse staff with recent data showing 77 percent of staff identify as non-white.

“This is the type of investment that honors this school’s students and families and its proud history and secures its rightful place as a continuous leader in the New Orleans’ public education landscape for the next 100 years,” said District 3 OPSB Board Member Sarah Usdin.

Inspire NOLA’s application to begin a new high school was recommended for approval by the Superintendent last month at the November OPSB Board Business Meeting. With no objection raised by the board by today’s meeting the approval goes into effect. The Superintendent’s recommendation to have Inspire NOLA operate a new 9th grade academy at McDonogh 35 does not require a board vote.

In an effort to keep disruption to current students and staff to a minimum the OPSB also approved a resolution for Inspire NOLA to also act as the short-term operator for the remaining 10th, 11th and 12th grade students at McDonogh 35 to provide the academic and operational management necessary to successfully transition the school from a direct-run to a charter school during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years.

Additionally, at Thursday’s meeting, the board voted to pass an action item that would allocate a total of $3.0 million from the McDonogh 35 transition fund to the McDonogh 35 Senior High School Budget over the Fiscal Year 2020 and Fiscal Year 2021 to aide in the transition process from direct-run to charter as the new school grows under Inspire NOLA.


The OPSB currently oversees 78 public schools, including 75 charter schools, two direct-operated schools and a school with two educational programs for students in secure-care facilities. On July 1, all New Orleans public schools were unified under the oversight of the locally-elected Orleans Parish School Board for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. Learn more about Unification here.

For more information, visit www.opsb.us. For updates, follow OPSB on Facebook, Instagram @orleansparishschoolboard and Twitter @_OPSB.