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NewsHour report on New Orleans schools

You can listen to their report here. I'll replace that with a permalink when they have a transcript.
See also "Why the school buses weren't used" for more on the company Alvarez and Marsal.

Nagin defends gaming; "I see a state in crisis"; "not feeling very regional right now"; thousands still missing

From this:

A frustrated New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin warned Thursday that it would be in the state's best interest to help the Crescent City jump-start its Hurricane Katrina-riddled economy, saying the impact on the state -- if nothing is done -- will pale in comparison to the layoffs the city recently announced.
"You think 3,000 layoffs in New Orleans is a big deal. Just wait,'' Nagin, his sleeves rolled up, said during an evening meeting with The Advocate's editorial board. "I see a state in crisis.''
The mayor pointed out during the Baton Rouge meeting that New Orleans accounts for 35 percent of the state budget.
"This is not chump change,'' he said. "We're going to have to sell the financial realities of what has happened to this state. Four-day work weeks is not going to do it.''
Nagin, who spent a second straight day Thursday visiting New Orleanians in evacuation shelters, including those in Baton Rouge, Lafayette and other parts of the state, expressed frustration over inaction on the state's part and what he perceives as indifference to the city's post-Katrina plight...
...Nagin, asked if the city is considering filing for bankruptcy, said his administration is in the process of borrowing $50 million from Chase Bank and is looking for a consortium of banks to lend the city another $50 million to $100 million...
...The mayor said his much-criticized proposal last week to create a casino district in downtown New Orleans -- what he referred to Thursday as the "hype and glitter factor,'' would be a way to breath life into the ailing city economy...
...The devastated Lower 9th Ward, what he called "the most vulnerable area of the city,'' could face "mass demolitions'' if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot give the city and residents the "comfort'' that it can be protected from future levee breaks along the Industrial Canal. The Lower 9th contains the highest concentration of blighted property in the city, he said, a legacy of Hurricane Betsy. If the Lower 9th is rebuilt, it likely will contain of mix of raised residences, apartments and condominiums, and industry.
His relationships with Blanco and Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard are less than cozy.
"I've been trying to work with the governor. We have very different styles. I'm really at a loss for what else to do,'' the mayor said.
"There are some really hard feelings right now,'' he said of his feelings toward Broussard. Shortly after Katrina struck, New Orleans residents who had fled to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center tried to "walk to freedom'' by crossing the Crescent City Connection on foot to make it out of the flooded city, but law enforcement officials in Gretna -- which is in Jefferson Parish -- met them with guns and "attack dogs,'' he said.
"And they want me to talk about regionalism. I'm not feeling very regional right now,'' Nagin said.
His idea to create a charter school system of 20 schools that he, rather than the Orleans Parish School Board, would control was prompted by the extreme pressure that the board is under to open schools on the city's east bank...
Even with 60 percent of the 1,061 identified hurricane deaths being from New Orleans, there are still 4,000 to 7,000 missing New Orleanians...

Why the school buses weren't used

Apparently, they weren't used because... all the New Orleans Public Schools drivers had evacuated the city. At least, that's what this completely unconfirmed report says:

I sent an email to Alvarez and Marsal (business managers of New Orleans Public Schools) and asked them why they did not make the school buses available to evacuate the citizens of New Orleans.
Their answer:

Thank you for your question. School buses were not used as all the NOPS transportation employees were also individuals who evacuated the city. Thanks.

Of course, others (like those trying to get the heck out) could have driven the buses, but I guess that wasn't considered or would have been against policy...
Once again, this report is not yet confirmed.

Orleans Parish School Board on the schoolbuses: June 9, 2005

During a meeting of the Orleans Parish School Board on June 9, 2005, the topic of using schoolbuses to evacuate the city was discussed. The PDF file appears to be unavailable, but the cache is here. The raw minutes dealing with the buses is below.

Ms. Bartholomew: President Sanders indicated that he wanted this on the agenda because of the Hurricane season. Last year when schools needed to be closed, department heads were unclear because a lot of our school records are still in paper format and not in electronic format. So they didn't know the proper procedure to follow with maintaining records. In addition, President Sanders also indicated that the City would like us to work with them. If a hurricane should come to the City in order to save the school buses, those assets, the City had asked if we would loan the school buses to be utilized for those persons in New Orleans. A lot of the citizens of New Orleans do not have transportation and have no way of evacuating from the City if a hurricane should come this way. He had been talking with Dr. Kevin Stephens from the Health Department because the Red Cross said that they would not commit to opening any shelters in the City of New Orleans if a hurricane comes this way. It would be all for naught. They wanted to utilize school buses in order to transport those persons out of the City. I believe that the City had agreed to indemnify and hold harmless the School Board if any of those persons got hurt on the buses because that was one of my concerns. But after speaking with Ms. Bowers, who had spoken with certain persons at the City as well, they indicated they would release us of any liability. He wanted the Board to be aware of what the City is doing with hurricane preparedness and I guess initiate the proceeding for the Administration to start taking steps now before we get on the door steps of a hurricane. How are we going to preserve students records? If you cannot come back to the City, the children will need those records to go into new schools in other States or other Parishes. She is here now; he can speak to it.
Mr. Sanders: I first noticed that this current policy, 3651R, a 16 page policy, looks like it was drafted in July 1989. I don't know if it has been reviewed since 1989 but it probably could withstand review on that sake along. It has a lot of titles in here in terms of people in positions and I wonder if those same titles and positions are still operable. The larger issue is not with the records and that is a major issue. The children are even more important in terms of making sure they are safe. We know many of our children and families don't have transportation and even though it is a City responsibility to plan for emergencies and hurricane preparedness, we need to look at working even more cooperatively or seeking a more cooperative relationship with the City on behalf of the students that we serve. I did talk with Dr. Kevin Stephens in the Health Department of the City. It is our interest to get buses and other vehicles that we may own out of the City in the event it is being evacuated. So those buses should not be empty. It was also his suggestion and call that they should be filled with families and children that may need a ride out of City and may perhaps designate certain high schools in different neighborhoods as staging grounds for families to go to should the need arise for an evacuation. The City is working on arrangements with different Civic Centers in Houma and depending on where the hurricane is coming from, where we need to go. They are making arrangements with institutions in those areas such as Baton Rouge, Mississippi, or Hammond to wait out the hurricane. I just wanted to bring that to your attention. In the last two years we had evacuations and with this season it is predicted to be another big one. With last year's storm, Mr. Jerome Smith over in the Treme' area said there were a lot kids who were just stuck there. They were going to break into or were willing to get in one of our schools in order to be safe. We completely understand. I informed him that a school would not have been a good place to be if a hurricane did come. Only about four or five of our schools would really withstand a category three or higher hurricane. Using our schools as shelters is really not an option. Getting out of the City is the best option. We need to find ways to facilitate that for the kids we serve. Even though it is not our primary responsibility, as such, we need to facilitate those relationships.
Mrs. Landrieu: I just wanted to remind you that if we are going to include buses, which are not part of this plan, then we need to include the personnel and communication with personnel.
Ms. Bowers: We have been meeting with City entities about the hurricane preparedness and we have talked to them about our buses. We still have not defined how many they want. They have agreed to indemnify the School Board for using the buses. They said if our bus drivers volunteer then they will make arrangements to take the families of the bus drivers and offer them secure places. They are talking about having City Officers on buses also. There is a good bit of planning that is underway. Benita Cochran and the head of transportation and the head of Security have been participating in these meetings, too. We are trying to stay on top it. This does need review. Ms. Cochran is reviewing the Facilities plan.
Mrs. Landrieu: Ms. Bowers, please also include in here fuel preparations.
Ms. Bowers: Okay.
Mr. Sanders: Is there a committee within our school system that will revise the policy? For this month's meeting, will we be able to have a revised policy?
Ms. Bowers: Yes.
Mrs. Anderson: I acceptably agree that human life is first but the data is important. Who do we ask? Do we ask the Superintendent to ask IT to look at the issue of preserving data and is that being looked at already?
Dr. Watson: Not to the extent that it probably should. All of our SASE and student data is within the Technology so that is safe. But some of the written documents in the schools, the older documents, need to be protected. But all grades, all enrollment, all health records are completely being taken care of by the Technology Department. We do have things like books and other things that would be perishable in the schools. We do our best to make them safe in the event of a hurricane. I do want to assure you that the School District has worked with the City and worked with other entities within the community over the years when we are facing a hurricane. But we have always volunteered the use of our buses to evacuate citizens.
Mrs. Cade: I know that this policy is a little out dated. As the Chair of the Policy Committee, I will be getting with my Policy Committee, so that we can go through it and update it. Even in it's present state, I would like to request that the Administration go over with your staff. All staff personnel should become knowledgeable of what the policy and procedures are.
Dr. Watson: We will.
[...discussions relating to cash flow not specific to the buses...]

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