At John McDonough High School in this city’s Esplanade Ridge district, the new superintendent points to a broken window boarded up with plastic. Nobody thought to fix it properly. “Why? Because these are the poor kids,” says John White, who arrived in New Orleans this spring. “The message is: ‘We don’t care.'”
John Mac is one of the worst schools in New Orleans, which makes it one of the worst in America. It scored 30 out of 200 on a statewide performance scale when 75 counts as “failing.” In a school built for 800 students, 340 are enrolled. Virtually all are African-American. A couple years ago, an armed gang burst into the cafeteria and assassinated a student.
Mr. White looks in on classrooms. In one, groups of seniors chat loudly and puzzle over a basic algebra problem. In another the teacher struggles to start a conversation about a USA Today article that few students had read. A girl in the corner sits with a jacket over her head, headphones in both ears.