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NEW ORLEANS – (Jan. 28, 2020) – NOLA Public Schools (NOLA-PS) Superintendent Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr. and the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) joined over 50 community members and representatives from local businesses and non-profits in an effort to highlight the need for a community response to truancy and chronic absenteeism issues within the City of New Orleans.

On Tuesday, Jan. 28, NOLA-PS hosted a breakfast with city leaders and members of the business community to discuss tactics on how to address these issues. During the breakfast, participants signed letters of commitment to join in the initiative as well as shape its future.

Those in attendance include Orleans Parish School Board President Ethan Ashley and school board members Leslie Ellison and John A. Brown, Sr.; Mary Garton, Assistant Superintendent, NOLA Public Schools; New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Shaun Ferguson; Emily Wolff, Director of the Office of Youth and Families for the City of New Orleans; Dr. Jennifer Avegno, Director of the Health Department for the City of New Orleans; Larry Barabino, CEO of the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission; Greg Tillery, Founder and Owner of We Dat Chicken & Shrimp; Brandon Mercadel, also known Fatt da Barber and owner of House of Shades Barber Shop; Troy Duhon, Founder and Owner of Premier Automotive which donates a new car to one Orleans Parish public school student with perfect attendance every year; and Nahliah Webber, Executive Director of Orleans Public Education Network (OPEN).

Brandon Mercadel, also known Fatt da Barber, and Donyette Love, LCSW-BACS, were presented with Attendance Advocate Awards for their tremendous efforts to support students in their daily attendance. For several years, Mr. Mercadel has offered free back to school haircuts to hundreds of youth across the city. Ms. Love champions the cause of daily school attendance in her role as a social worker at Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary, finding creative ways to weave the importance of school attendance into the school’s culture.

“NOLA-PS and our community partners are working together to address chronic absenteeism across our city. Ensuring every child attends school every day must be a priority, and as the saying goes, it takes a village. We are that village,” said NOLA-PS Superintendent Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr. “Together, we can help address absenteeism and help set our children up for life-long success.”

Each year, about 25 percent of students in Orleans Parish public schools are chronically absent, hindering student achievement and thereby impacting educational and economic outcomes for our students. Although school attendance challenges can be attributed to many factors, those challenges are not always understood by the wider public.


ABOUT NOLA PUBLIC SCHOOLS: NOLA Public Schools is the public school district for Orleans Parish, which includes the district’s elected school board, known as the Orleans Parish School Board and the district’s administration led by NOLA Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Henderson Lewis Jr. NOLA Public Schools currently oversees 78 public schools. For more information, visit For updates, follow NOLA Public Schools on Facebook @NOLAPublicSchools, Instagram @nolaps and Twitter @NOLAPSchools.

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