Friday, February 22, 2013

Big Class offers free book-making, after-school program

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 5:51 PM


Big Class is a local organization that runs literacy programs in which children create books from writing content through publishing. The group's next project is to run a writing and tutoring center at 3718 St. Claude Avenue (below Antenna Gallery). There are two open houses (noon-3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, and 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28) at which parents and children can get information about the program and sign up. Participation is free, and volunteers also can sign up at the two open houses. There's more info here.

Upcoming after-school programs start March 12. Each program starts with homework help, and each has an eight week workshop followed by a four-week book-making project.

Tuesday features a jazz centered project for 10-14 year olds. The program incorporates music, poetry and visual art.

Wednesday features a food and memory theme for 10-14 year olds. Students write reviews and essays and take photographs.

Thursday's project is a newspaper for 6-14 year olds. Students will create all sections of a community newspaper.

Sundays are open to 6-18 year olds, and each week will feature a different workshop topic.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Zack Kopplin wins "Troublemaker of the Year" award

Posted By on Fri, Feb 15, 2013 at 1:09 PM

Zack Kopplin, the 19-year-old Rice University student and Louisiana native who's spent the last two years advocating for repeal of the Louisiana Science Education Act, was named the inaugural "Troublemaker of the Year" by a private foundation that seeks to honor people in their teens who stir up, well, trouble:

What kind of trouble? The good kind — when you are not afraid to speak your mind on important matters even when everyone around you disagrees, when you take a risk and bend social norms for a greater good, when you pick a direction and go for it, even if others tell you to turn around.

The troublemakers that the award seeks are young women and men from around the globe, who demonstrate inspiration, original thinking, leadership and outstanding commitment to their troublemaking cause. Their activism not only turns heads, but also delivers tangible positive impact on their local community, home town, country, or perhaps the entire planet Earth.

The organization, founded by self-described "angel investor and serial entrepreneur" Semyon Dukach, awarded Kopplin a $10,000 prize.

Zack’s bold campaign to repeal the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) has made waves in state politics and in public education. Kopplin has gathered the support of 78 Nobel Laureate scientists, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the New Orleans City Council, and other major organizations. His petition to repeal the law has 74,000 supporters across the US. Working with Louisiana State Senator Karen Carter Peterson, Zack has fought for two bills to repeal the LSEA. He has spoken out before the Louisiana legislature and State Board of Education, debated creationist politicians, held rallies, and had been covered in hundreds of interviews in national and international media. Kopplin is preparing to fight for a third repeal bill.

Read Gambit's 2011 profile of Kopplin here.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Kids tackle king cakes

Posted By on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 3:04 PM

king cake
  • Ian McNulty
  • What ideas will the next generation have for king cakes?

The Carnival season king cake tradition is more than just alive and well. These days, it seems to be positively surging, with bakeries and restaurants across the spectrum giving these cakes their own spins and sometimes turning heads with their new interpretations.

Cochon Butcher has been making specialty king cakes for the past few seasons. Rhonda Ruckman, pastry chef for the Link Restaurant Group, prepares both single-serving size and family-size cakes in flavors that are traditional, like cinnamon, or decidedly not, like the “Elvis,” with peanut butter, banana, bacon and marshmallow. Domenica is getting in on the action this year too, with pastry chef Lisa White making an elaborate version filled with salted caramel, sliced bananas, pecans and mascarpone and iced with a praline glaze sprinkled with gold leaf. You can order these a day in advance for pick-up at the restaurant, or place a day-of rush order for an extra fee.

Continue reading »

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Today's must-read: io9 profiles Zack Kopplin

Posted By on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 10:35 AM

Science and science fiction website io9 yesterday ran a lengthy profile of Zack Kopplin, the young Louisiana man who took on Big Sea Monster — the creationism education lobby — when he was still in high school. (Zack is also son of city of New Orleans Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin.)

His efforts, needless to say, have not gone unnoticed — particularly by his opponents. He's been called the Anti-Christ, a stooge of "godless liberal college professors," and was even accused of causing Hurricane Katrina. Kopplin cooly brushes these incidents aside, saying they're just silly distractions.

But some of the most aggressive broadsides, he says, have come from state legislators.

"I'm not talking threats or name calling, but they were really something to experience," he says.

Read io9's "How 19-year-old Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana creationists"

Also see Gambit's story on Kopplin from 2011.

(Via Lamar White.)

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Jazz & Heritage Foundation offers free music classes for teens

Posted By on Mon, Jan 7, 2013 at 1:40 PM

The Heritage School of Music classes are at Dillard University.
  • The Heritage School of Music classes are at Dillard University.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation sponsors many programs and festivals throughout the year. It offers free jazz lessons to kids ages 11-17 in the Don "Moose" Jamison Heritage School of Music. Classes for beginner, intermediate and advanced students take place Saturday mornings at Dillard University. Auditions for class spots are 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, at Dillard's Cook Fine Arts Center, second floor. Instruction is available in voice, guitar, piano, brass, woodwinds, bass and drums. Visit the foundation website for details about audition requirements and classes, or call (504) 558-6100.

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Jindal orders task force to examine school safety

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2013 at 4:00 PM


In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Gov. Bobby Jindal has created a task force to review school safety procedures, from prekindergarten through university level campuses. The multi-agency group includes the departments of safety and corrections, education, health and hospitals, children and family services, and boards from state universities, to be co-chaired by State Police Superintendent Col. Michael Edmonson, and James LeBlanc, Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. Jindal's executive order says "This study group shall collaboratively review and assess the State’s current programs and plans in order to identify any necessary improvements or changes in light of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut."

The order states
: "When such a tragedy occurs it is imperative that those involved with school and campus safety for the more than 1,700 public and private schools, colleges and universities work collaboratively to re-examine the plans and measures in place to identify any areas needing improvement, incorporate new strategies and work together to exercise existing response plans."

The group's three stated goals will "identify and implement improvements" in respective departments before any necessary bills can be filed in Legislature this session.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Orleans Parish School Board votes to ban creationism, expand bullying policy

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 9:55 AM

The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) voted in favor of two policy amendments proposed by outgoing president Thomas Robichaux at last night's December meeting at McDonogh 35 College Preparatory High School.

Robichaux's updates included adding "zero tolerance," among other discipline actions, to its "bullying, intimidation, harassment and hazing" policy," and ensuring creationism, intelligent design and "revisionist history" are left out of textbooks. Read more about the policy changes in Gambit.

The textbook selection update says "No history textbook shall be approved which has been adjusted in accordance with the State of Texas revisionist guidelines nor shall any science textbook be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories."

It also applies to teachers: "No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach any aspect of religious faith as science or in a science class. No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes."

Zack Kopplin, who campaigned to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act (which City Council called to repeal in May 2011), was the only speaker on the textbook policy: "Creationism certainly is not science," he said, warning that students not only will not meet higher education standards, but they "won't find New Orleans jobs in the Bio District."

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Daily Beast congratulates Mitch Landrieu on school reform

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 8:48 AM

There’s no question that Mayor Mitch Landrieu has crafted an image as a creative, modern-thinking chief executive. And this week, The Daily Beast/Newsweek recognized him as such when it featured Landrieu as one of the “Most Innovative Mayors in the U.S.”

There’s just one catch: The innovation that earned him the prized spot on the roster, the dramatic transformation of the city’s public schools, wasn’t exactly his.

“Under Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the Crescent City has aggressively embraced education reform,” the piece says. “The result is a sea change in public education. Consider this: nationwide, just 4 percent of students attend charter schools. In New Orleans, nearly 80 percent of parents choose charters. Seven years after Katrina, the dropout rate has been cut in half, while test scores have soared by double digits.”

The specific actions that Landrieu is described as taking are actually correct, and there’s no evidence that his team oversold his role. The piece rightly points out that City Hall doesn’t control the school system, and that Landrieu has championed charters, campaigned for “reform” candidates, fought for a ground-breaking $1.8 billion lump sum from FEMA to rebuild facilities, and pursued philanthropic support.

But to make him the face of the movement — or suggest that the epic changes originated in the city and not in Baton Rouge — is as misleading as handing that honor to Gov. Bobby Jindal, another ambitious supporter who also gets plenty of national attention for his role.

Continue reading »

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Party politics: Dueling statements on judge's ruling that La. school vouchers are unconstitutional

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 3:54 PM

Baton Rouge Judge Tim Kelley has ruled that the state's newly expanded voucher school program is unconstitutional.

In an emailed statement, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu says she's not surprised that the controversial voucher program was overturned.

“It is no surprise that State District Judge Tim Kelley today ruled the unnecessarily aggressive and overreaching statewide voucher program unconstitutional. A strategic use of state-funded vouchers could be appropriate, but this diversion of public education dollars was a step too far and diminishes resources for meaningful reform efforts already underway at the local level. Judge Kelley was correct in setting appropriate limits.”

Even though today's ruling seems to strike a blow to the voucher program, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's Superintendent of Education John White says, in a very brief emailed statement, that he's not giving up.

"We strongly disagree with the ruling. We are optimistic this decision will be reversed on appeal."

(More after the jump)

Continue reading »

Friday, September 7, 2012

Arts education opportunities for New Orleans-area kids

Posted By on Fri, Sep 7, 2012 at 2:43 PM

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundations Heritage School of Music get free music lessons.
  • The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation's Heritage School of Music get free music lessons.

There are several upcoming opportunities for students interested in music and dance classes.

-The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation is holding auditions for spots in the Don "Moose" Jamison Heritage School of Music's fall classes. The program is open to New Orleans area students ages 11-17. Classes for beginning and advanced students are free and take place on from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Dillard University. Interested applicants should go to auditions at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 15 at Dillard University's Cook Fine Arts Center. See the website for more information or call 558-6100.

-Delta Festival Ballet is holding open auditions for spots in the Nutcracker Youth Corps Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 8-9 at the Giacobbe Academy of Dance (6925 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-0931). Audition schedules are: 3 p.m. Saturday for girls aged 14-18; 1 p.m. Sunday for girls 7-10; 2:30 p.m. Sunday for boys 7-11; 3 p.m. Sunday for girls 11-13.

- The NORDC/NOBA Center for Dance offers free classes for children ages 6-18. There are multiple sign-up locations and dates. Admission is first-come, first serve. Registration begins Sept. 10. For a list of locations and times, visit the website.

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