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Lusher’s Kathy Riedlinger will step down as CEO, retire at the end of the school year

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

Lusher Charter School CEO Kathy Riedlinger announced Friday that she will step down as CEO, effective immediately, and will retire at the end of the school year.

Riedlinger will serve in an advisory role until then and will help transition deputy CEO Nicolette London to the role of interim CEO, according to a press release.

London will serve in her new role until the charter’s board hires Riedlinger’s replacement.

“Working with the support of so many in our school system and community, we have created one of the finest public schools in the history of New Orleans,” Riedlinger said in a message to the school’s board, students, staff and families.

“I am incredibly proud of our students, alumni, staff and teachers, and what we have built at Lusher Charter School.”

Lusher Charter School
Lusher Charter School CEO Kathy Riedlinger.

Riedlinger taught at Warren Easton and Woodson Junior High in the 1970s before becoming principal of Lusher Elementary in 1981. She later became Lusher's middle school principal and oversaw both campuses until becoming CEO in 2005.

Since then, Lusher has grown into a K-12 school serving more than 1,900 students across two campuses and is set to expand to a third campus soon.

The A-rated school is one of the most sought after in the city and is the highest ranking K-12 school in the state.

Ken Ducote, with the Greater New Orleans Collaborative of Charter Schools (GNOCCS), said in a statement that Riedlinger’s nearly five decades in education “rank among few whose tenure was so long and at one institution.”

“That accomplishment alone, during so many changes in pedagogy and accountability, stands as a significant achievement,” he said, adding that Riedlinger’s role as leading founder of GNOCCS collaborative after Hurricane Katrina helped other schools reopen, allowing families to return to the city.

While Riedlinger’s accomplishments are numerous she has also faced significant criticism during her tenure from staff, students and parents.

Last year, Lusher’s then high school principal Steve Corbett accused Riedlinger of discriminatory and retaliatory behavior in a letter to the school’s board of directors.

In the letter, Corbett said Riedlinger had undermined efforts to heal racial tensions at the school, which is a pressing issue for the Lusher community.

The allegations were "fully investigated by an independent firm and found not to merit any action by the school," according to Lusher's spokesperson Heather Harper.

Lusher’s renaming process, which has been highly contentious, is still ongoing.

London, the school’s new interim CEO, began serving as deputy CEO at the start of the school year and previously served the Orleans Parish School Board as executive director of federal programs and external grants and as chief of network schools.

Prior to that, she worked at Benjamin Franklin Elementary Charter Schools as chief administrative officer and previously worked at Lusher as a compliance specialist.

"I have full confidence in the ability of Nicolette London and the administrative team to lead the school through the coming transition. I know that our board will support them,” Riedlinger said.

Aubri Juhasz is the education reporter for New Orleans Public Radio. Before coming to New Orleans, she was a producer for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. She helped lead the show's technology and book coverage and reported her own feature stories, including the surge in cycling deaths in New York City and the decision by some states to offer competitive video gaming to high school students as an extracurricular activity.

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