Lusher Charter School is one of the most sought-after public schools in the city of New Orleans. In addition to its academic success, Lusher is best known for its positive school culture, built on the school’s number one rule: be kind. In addition to doing Responsive Classroom’s morning meeting on a daily basis, Lusher encourages its staff, students, and parents to implement ideas that build a culture of kindness. For example, after Hurricane Katrina, teachers collaborated with Tulane University’s Department of Psychology to design an arts-based healing curriculum that included activities such as painting ceramic eggs to symbolize rebirth and interviewing students about their visions for New Orleans. Fifth graders also took the opportunity to redesign the school’s bathrooms and the school cafeteria, installing a salad bar and round tables in the latter.
This profile was prepared when Lusher Charter School joined the Ashoka Partnership in 2013.
Principal (Lower School)
Shelia learned at an early age that she wanted to do work that would help others, and Shelia recognized that she related well to children, so teaching was a natural choice for her. With just a couple of years under her belt, Shelia had quickly established a reputation as an excellent teacher and found herself presenting ideas to the administration. This included a request to teach and loop at-risk fourth graders, team with the Title assistant and implement a variety of school-wide programs.
During the next ten years of her teaching career, Shelia maintained her reputation as an excellent teacher and became an integral part of the schools’ initiatives by leading committees and school-wide events, writing and implementing grants, serving as ranking teacher, working as a consultant, reading and rating grants for the state, etc. During this time, Shelia also was one of the district’s first teachers to pilot and teach a multi-sensory reading group while teaching two additional levels in the class. In addition, Shelia served as a Substance Abuse Prevention Educator, held support groups with identified at-risk students across the school during her planning, and lunch periods as well as after school. Increasingly, Shelia found colleagues seeking her advice about their work. Through her varied experiences, Shelia realized that she could affect change much more by leaving the classroom.
When Kathy Riedlinger interviewed her, Shelia was hired as the summer principal with no promises for August. Because of the school’s focus on the arts and her propensity to take risks and try new experiences in her field, Shelia left the comfort and security of the classroom. Shelia also had enough faith in her abilities to bet on Ms. Riedlinger offering her a post. She did. Shelia worked from 1999 to 2005 as the school’s site manager with the goal of being mentored by one of the best principals in the city. After Katrina, Shelia became principal of the Lower School.