Local and state officials joined members of the Akili Academy community for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 5, 2013. The event was planned in partnership with the Recovery School District (RSD) and commemorated the opening of the school at the newly-renovated historic William Frantz campus. Frantz was one of the first sites of school integration in New Orleans when six-year-old Ruby Bridges attended the school in 1960.
Also present for the event were Sean Gallagher, the founder of Akili Academy, Cher Washington, a former Frantz student, and six members of the Akili Academy student body: Syre Pack, Cedric Johnson, Kendrionne Anderson, Kyle Smith, Deloise Smith, and Diamond Smith.
The ceremony was officiated by RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard. He welcomed the group and talked briefly about the restoration of the school, the historical significance of the day, and the importance of continuing to make strides in education for the students of New Orleans. He also praised the work of Akili Academy and its leaders.
“Crescent City Schools is serving students well,” Dobard said. “CEO Kate Mehok is a kindred spirit in this school reform movement; I know what her heart is and how dedicated she is to helping children. We also want to recognize the courageousness of Ruby Bridges and celebrate this historic moment by continuing to honor and preserve her legacy,” he said.
Mehok then spoke alongside Principal Julie MacFetters about Akili Academy.
“I have always cared deeply about this school and the students,” she said. “It was such an honor when founder Sean Gallagher asked for Akili Academy to join Crescent City Schools when he moved last year. We are so happy to be in this new space and we want to thank everyone at the RSD who helped to make this transition possible.”
Student Kendrionne Anderson spoke about the journey from the original site in modulars to the permanent building at Frantz. Anderson was part of the original kindergarten class when Akili Academy was founded in 2008.
Two representatives of the Ruby Bridges Foundation, Dr. Ken Ducote and Samuel Collins III, also spoke about the importance of the school. Ducote spoke directly to the Akili Academy students in attendance.
“You are going to hear us talk a lot about history and the significance of Ruby’s contributions,” he said. “But the history I want you to think about this morning is the history that you will create. You have the opportunity now to achieve great things and contribute greatly to your community. We are hopeful and waiting to see you grow.”
Other guest speakers included Mike Womack (FEMA), Sam Joel (Office of the Mayor), Kira Orange-Jones (BESE), Ira Thomas, Cynthia Cade, and Stan Smith (OPSB). Sarah Usdin (OPSB) was also in attendance.
Following the speakers, the group gathered on the steps of the original entrance on North Galvez Street to cut the ribbon. The event concluded with cake and guided tours of the campus.v