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Lusher expected to appoint formal renaming committee after parents threaten legal action

Lusher Charter School's middle and high school campus on Freret Street. March 7, 2021.
Aubri Juhasz
Lusher Charter School's middle and high school campus on Freret Street. March 7, 2021.

Lusher Charter School is expected to appoint a formal renaming committee at its board meeting Thursday, after its informal ‘study group’ was suspended due to threat of legal action.

Board president George Wilson formed the study group at the board’s November meeting, after members decided not to select a new name for the program as planned.

“More study is needed to create a plan that results in a new name for the school,” he wrote in a letter to the Lusher community after the meeting, adding that the group would continue the work of an earlier study group that Wilson appointed in September.

A few days later, attorney Scott Sternberg, with Sternberg, Naccari & White, sent a letter on behalf of a group of Lusher community members identified as “concerned parents, alumni, and students” alleging that the board had violated state open meetings law since the original group carried out its work in private.

“What is not a harmless misstatement of the law is the idea that the [board] can call a committee it appoints a ‘working group’ or ‘study group’ and avoid the open meetings law,” Sternberg wrote in a letter first obtained by the Lens. “There is no basis in law for this game of names.”

The letter demanded that future study group meetings be open to the public, otherwise the board would face legal action. Two days later, Lusher families received an unsigned email stating that the school had temporarily suspended the renaming process due to “a threat of litigation.”

Lusher has been named for Robert Mills Lusher, an avowed white supremacist and Confederate tax collector, for more than 100 years, and its renaming process has been highly contentious since it was first approved in late September. While the community was invited to submit new name suggestions, and submitted more than 600, the board’s original study group ultimately came up with three final options largely on its own.

One of the suggestions, Lusher Charter School, in honor of Jeanne Marie Lusher, left some community members incensed and resulted in hours of debate about whether the board was moving forward with its decision to rename the program in good faith.

At its November meeting, the board ultimately voted to not consider the name Jeanne Marie Lusher, and in a letter to families after the fact, Wilson said the board had decided to “remove Lusher, in any form, from consideration as the school’s new name.”

The board’s most recent study group consists of board members Rachel Wisdom and Alysia Loshbaugh and three members of its administration, Charmaine Davis, Charlene Hebert and Sheila Nelson.

Wilson initially tasked the group with hiring an outside consultant to engage with the community and come up with a new list of possible names that the board would then vote on. At the time, he said the process could take four months.

Lusher’s board is scheduled to meet virtually Thursday at 4 p.m.

Aubri Juhasz covers K-12 education, focusing on charter schools, education funding, and other statewide issues. She also helps edit the station’s news coverage.

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