NBC's road tour of three education hot spots — "hot," that is, for good or for bad — lands in New Orleans this week. Along with the other cities (Detroit and Phoenix), the network's third annual "Education Nation" events highlight local issues facing local schools — and NBC is reaching out not just to the recent waves of nationally praised charter schools and their operators, but to the Recovery School District (RSD) as well as teachers and their students citywide.
City officials, including Mayor Mitch Landrieu, as well as Louisiana Department of Education Superintendent John White and U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, will appear at the events, which begin with an opening ceremony Friday, April 12. All events are held at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) and will include input from schools in St. Bernard, St. Tammany and Jefferson Parishes, as well as RSD and charter schools in Orleans Parish. The events are not open to the public.
At these events, the network gathers information and ideas from schools for its annual education summit, which will be held in New York later this year. Over the course of each tour stop, its education coverage will run across all its news platforms, including MSNBC, NBC Nightly News, Today and Meet the Press. Last year, Education Nation covered Denver, Atlanta and Miami.
NBC spokeswoman Meghan Pianta says the NOCCA event is "very New Orleans-focused" and will deal largely with specific problems facing local schools rather than schools nationwide. Panels will stream live on www.educationnation.com and air on station partner WDSU-TV.
Department of Education Press Secretary Barry Landry confirmed to Gambit that White will attend and appear at one of the panels but did not elaborate on what the superintendent will discuss. Pianta said White likely will talk about the state and federal implications of post-Katrina education reform in New Orleans.
The opening ceremony includes presentations from Mayor Landrieu and RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard, as well as local students. What follows is a series of panels — collectively a "summit" — on education. At 1:30 p.m. Friday, former WWL-TV anchor and current Today presenter Hoda Kotb will host panels including "Early Learning: Sowing Seeds for Success," "K-12: Lessons from the New Orleans Experience," and "Job One: Preparing Louisiana to Compete in the 21st Century Economy." WDSU will air the "Job One" panel at 4:30 p.m.
On Saturday, April 13, NBC News' Rehema Ellis and WDSU's Sula Kim and Blake Hanson host a Teacher Town Hall, a teachers-only forum to discuss "challenges facing schools," Pianta says. "The entire forum is nothing but teachers. All the panelists are teachers." NBC has invited teachers' unions — including members of the National Education Association, the Louisiana Association of Educators, United Teachers of New Orleans — and representatives from New Schools for New Orleans, Teach NOLA and Advance NOLA. NBC News also invited teachers from KIPP, the Louisiana Association of Charter Schools, Teach for America and local universities.
The teacher town hall airs at 6 p.m. on WDSU and www.educationnation.com.
Detroit hosted Education Nation events last month — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Chelsea Clinton and city officials attended the conference. A student town hall, which solicited questions and thoughts from Detroit students, focused on discussions of bullying in schools.
Ellis, Kim and Hanson will host a New Orleans student town hall Sunday, April 14, pro-viding hundreds of students an open forum to discuss their classroom experiences. Only students are participating on the panel, and only students will be allowed to attend.
NBC also invited youth organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs, the Youth Leadership Council and the YMCA.
The student town hall will air on WDSU at 4 p.m.
In addition to the forums, NBC News' Education Nation bus will be around and WDSU reporters will visit with people at the event and report on education issues throughout the week. Event sponsors include the W.K. Kel-logg Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Chevron, the University of Phoenix and NBC Learn.