“Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.”
I was asked to join the Marketing and Development Committee by a friend, Heather Evans who was working with people from ReNEW.
Why did you say yes when asked to serve?
When I was first asked to work with ReNEW, I didn't say yes. I serve on the boards of several other institutions and my plate is very full. The last thing I wanted to do was serve on another board. Heather asked me to have coffee with Pete Rodway and just hear about the work ReNEW was doing. Once I found out that ReNEW took over the lowest performing schools in New Orleans and that they were serving children from the poorest areas of our city and that they had completely overhauled the way business was being handled at these schools, I was in. Finally, someone had come along to make change happen for these kids. I definitely wanted to be part of that. I will work tirelessly to do whatever I can to help. I believe in the mission of ReNEW.
I grew up in New Orleans. When I was young the public schools here were okay, not great but okay. By the time I had my own children the public schools were consistently performing at the lowest rate in the country. The Country! My children were educated at private schools because there was no alternative education system that could give them even a basic foundation to get into college. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was given a unique opportunity to start over with our public school system. We brought in charter schools and took away controlling power from the Orleans Parish School Board. It was a new day full of new possibilities for all of the children of our city. When I was offered a chance to work with a team of people who are genuinely bringing about positive change in my community, I felt not just a desire but an obligation to do what I could to help. I know how hard my husband and I had to work to send our kids to private school. Quality education should be within the reach of every child and every parent. It's very exciting to see life and hope in the faces of the children who walk the halls of the ReNEW Schools. These children are being prepared to go to college and are being taught that education is their future and they are embracing it! It's exciting to watch and even more exciting to be a part of.
What leadership roles have you had while serving on the board?
I recently completed three years of service as President of the Temple Sinai Sisterhood. I have been a member the Board of Directors of Temple Sinai since 2003. I am a proud member of the Board of Directors of HopeStone, New Orleans. HopeStone believes in "Art for All". It is our vision to expand boundaries through engaging art experiences. Our programs currently reach over 250 New Orleans youth with free or low cost arts education classes in dance, music, theater, and visual arts. I am also President of the New Orleans chapter of the Circle of Red. The women of The Circle of Red are the faces of the American Heart Association. We raise money for research that is based here in Louisiana. We lobby the legislature for changes in medical practices that benefit men, women and children with heart disease. We educate the community about the reality of heart disease and the fact that it is the number one killer of women in the United States. Heart Disease kills more women each year than all cancers combined. As a business woman I own and manage an event planning company and online wedding accessory shop, Old.New.Blue. In 2013 my team and I have been responsible for planning and executing 13 weddings, 6 bar/bat mitzvahs and 10 private parties and 3 galas.
Is there anything that you know now that you wished you had known before?
Are you kidding me? There are so many things I know now that I wished I had known before! Boy, the lessons I have learned the hard way! Truthfully speaking if I had had any idea of the difference charter schools would make in the educational opportunities for New Orleans kids, I would have been pounding the floors of the legislature to have the laws changed. I would have gathered all of my friends and collectively we would have spoken of the virtues of the charter school system until we were heard. If only any of us had known before, maybe an entire generation of children would have had better choices offered to them. Maybe their lives would have been better. Maybe our crime rate would be lower. What is that saying? Hindsight is 20/20.
“Janie has been amazing for ReNEW. She's not only donated financially but she's put big time elbow grease into helping to organize the last Future Takes Flight as well as an arts education benefit we had at the Ritz last year - AND she organized a team for the chili cook-off. She's involved in lots of interesting stuff around town and has really thrown herself into working with ReNEW.” – Liza Sherman, ReNEW Schools, Board Member
The success of a charter school hinges largely on the decisions of its governing board. The Top Shelf enhances the capacity of charter school boards through professional development, board recruitment and community engagement.