Before the storm, Angela Daliet spent 15 years in the private sector as a financial adviser. Now she leads Save Our Schools NOLA, a nonprofit with a mission to ensure that “every child in New Orleans has access to high-quality public schools.”
What motivated you to start Save Our Schools NOLA?
I’m a parent of three boys. I needed our public school, Hynes in Lakeview, to open so that I could come back and be part of rebuilding our city. But I could not get any information out of the system. I definitely couldn’t be involved in what decisions were being made. That motivated me to rally our troops, other public school parents and some administrators that were spread from California to Rhode Island. When we knew that Hynes would reopen in August 2006, I really got that this was a bigger issue.
Why are public schools important to New Orleans?
The quality of our public schools affects all the other ailments of our city: poverty, homelessness, drug use.
Why are parents not more involved?
There are decades of mistrust here. We have been brought to the table before, and then leaders and policy makers have walked away and done what they wanted anyway.
How does Save Our Schools NOLA overcome this mistrust?
To come to the table and make informed decisions, you need information. We worked tirelessly over two years to develop a database of public school information. And we’re trying really hard to get the information out.
What is the role of the database School Close-Ups (sosnola.org/nocloseups)?
Our role is to get information into the hands of parents and then provide training on that information. Say, okay, now here’s the information, and what does it mean and what does it not mean. I have three kids, and they have three different sets of needs.
What’s the most promising development in public education since the storm?
That people are interested in what’s going on. We haven’t just written off public schools like we did before the storm. Everyone is concerned and understands that rebuilding the public school system is a necessary component to rebuilding New Orleans.
Are we headed in the right direction?
We are, but I think that we’re headed in a few different directions, and we need to unify the direction that we’re going in.
Could these changes have happened without Katrina?
I think so, but the storm has really inspired, motivated and caused a momentum that was not there before from a broader community. I was fighting this fight in my own school before the storm, and I know lots of other people were . . . but I also went to work every day.
What has it been like to move from the private sector to running a nonprofit organization full-time?
It’s exhausting. It also kept me going. It’s inspiring. I don’t push the social justice world on my children, but I live it. Like the Gandhi saying, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
What can people do to help Save Our Schools NOLA and New Orleans public schools?
If you’re a New Orleanian, you need to recognize that public schools in New Orleans affect you. Stay informed. Visit our website on a regular basis, read the news articles that we have on there about public schools in New Orleans and understand the changes that are happening. Get connected to your neighborhood school.