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The Arts In Every Classroom: A Video Library K-5

Leadership Team

At Lusher Elementary School in New Orleans, principal Kathleen Hurstell Riedlinger works closely with a Leadership Team of classroom and arts teachers. The team's central role in management is part of a long–term strategy to protect the school's commitment to arts–based learning. We meet individual members of the team and see them work together on a diverse agenda, including the school's annual Arts Celebration, the increased demand for enrollment from outside the school's neighborhood, and orientation of new teachers to the school's arts–based curriculum.

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The Leadership Team at Lusher Alternative Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana, includes classroom teachers, an arts specialist teacher, the principal, and the assistant principal.

At Lusher Alternative Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana, principal Kathleen Hurstell Riedlinger works closely with a team of classroom teachers and arts specialists on curriculum and policy decisions. She sees the group as an effective way to strengthen and protect the school’s mission and commitment to arts-based learning.

In this program, you will sit in on a Leadership Team meeting as they discuss the day’s diverse agenda.

In their classrooms, Leadership Team members reflect on the benefits of serving — for the school as a whole and for their own teaching practice.

Riedlinger says: “I call the Leadership Team in on almost every decision I make that deals with things that will really impact policy. … There is not one person running the show. Everyone begins to say, ‘I feel good about voicing my opinion.’”

Featured People

Who’s Who
(In order of appearance)

  • Kathleen Hurstell Riedlinger, principal, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana (Interview)
  • Sheila Nelson, assistant principal, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Megan Neelis, second-grade teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Marti Dumas, fifth-grade teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Kathy DeJean, dance teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Adele Brown, fourth-grade teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Carolyn Cunningham, fifth-grade teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Geralyn Broussard, first-grade teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Paul Reynaud, first-grade teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Carolyn DuBois, fourth-grade teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana

Featured Schools

Lusher Alternative Elementary School

  • Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Principal: Kathleen Hurstell Riedlinger
  • Assistant Principal: Sheila Nelson
  • Featured teachers and collaborators: Kathy DeJean, dance teacher; Marti Dumas, fifth-grade teacher; Carolyn Cunningham, fifth-grade teacher; Amanda Newberry, theatre teacher; Warren Irwin, visiting artist; Megan Neelis, second-grade teacher; Eve Gitlin, third-grade teacher; Paul Reynaud, first-grade teacher; Geralyn Broussard, first-grade teacher; Nancy Lilly, fourth-grade teacher; Ann Rowson Love, curator of education, Ogden Museum of Southern Art; Louise Trimble Kepper, artist and student of Will Henry Stevens; Kathy Guidry, kindergarten teacher; Carolyn DuBois, fourth-grade teacher; Tricia Ruf, student teacher; Adele Brown, fourth-grade teacher
  • Grades: K–5
  • Number of students: About 500
  • Number of faculty: About 49
  • Demographic information: Thirty percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Two percent of students are English language learners. The student population is 49 percent Caucasian, 41 percent African-American, 6 percent Hispanic, 3 percent Asian, and 1 percent Native American.

Lusher Alternative Elementary, a K–5 public school in the Orleans Parish School District, provides a student-centered curriculum in an atmosphere where each child is encouraged to develop academically, physically, socially, and emotionally.

Strong emphasis is put on a core curriculum with opportunity for development of individual needs and talents using varied teaching styles and strategies. Aided by the Annenberg-Getty Arts Partnership as an Art School Partner, Lusher upholds its school motto: “Celebrating Cultural Diversity Through High Academics and the Arts.”

Lusher’s Talented in the Arts program meets the needs of students who have exceptional ability in music, visual art, or drama. Students are referred by teachers and screened through an evaluation process by the school’s special education department. Students who leave their regular classes to take part in this program also are expected to keep up their regular class work.

Respect for the rights of others and oneself are of utmost importance at Lusher. Teachers use a positive approach to discipline through the Project Pride program. Project Pride’s four basic rules are: be kind, be responsible, do your best work, and respect people and property. At Lusher, the strong bonds of commitment and cooperation among students, teachers, administrators, and the community help provide a strong education for each child.

Information provided by Lusher Alternative Elementary School. Current as of February 2002.

Featured Approaches

Mission and Commitment

“For too long, the program relied on me for leadership issues. I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Kathleeen Hurstell Riedlinger observes. “In too many schools, when that principal leaves, in many ways they have to start all over.”

“I thought it was really important to institutionalize what the vision and mission of Lusher is … tapping a group of leaders who would take responsibility for the implementation and the continuation of that vision … [and] giving them the opportunity to sit together and use their experience to come up with a plan that’s going to work for us,” she says.

“When I stop, there will be no question that the [next principal] will know that arts are at the core — and that it is a community decision, backed up with a strong group of teacher leaders that will be right there to help a new person come in.”


Diverse Agenda

The Leadership Team’s meeting topics for the day include:

  • how to structure Lusher’s annual Arts Celebration in light of ongoing construction at the school;
  • increased demand for enrollment from outside Lusher’s neighborhood; and
  • peer mentoring and other strategies for helping new teachers feel comfortable with Lusher’s arts-based curriculum.


Benefits of Serving

Here are some reasons why members enjoy serving on Lusher’s Leadership Team:

  • Geralyn Broussard, first-grade teacher: “It makes me feel more a part of school — knowing my ideas are shared and used. … The Leadership Team is the think tank — you have to be willing to work through ideas.”
  • Kathy DeJean, dance teacher: “It lets me look at how the arts are being used and listened to and understood by classroom teachers — and listen to classroom teachers and hear how arts are affecting them and what they need.”
  • Marti Dumas, a new fifth-grade teacher and Lusher alumna: “The Leadership Team is a voice for people who don’t necessarily know the ropes around here. … Having the Leadership Team focused on the arts makes other people more serious about the arts.”
  • Sheila Nelson, assistant principal: “The Leadership Team members have to go out to other teachers to get information. They have to be people who are flexible and know how to relate to others.”
  • Paul Reynaud, first-grade teacher: “We allow the teachers to have a voice about what kind of curriculum changes we are going to have.”
  • Carolyn DuBois, fourth-grade teacher: “My colleagues have a contact with the administration. They share with me and I can go back to the Leadership Team.”


Who Should Watch This Program

As a model for effective planning and management, “Leadership Team” is a good professional development resource for principals and assistant principals and for teachers who would like to enhance their leadership skills.

Other audiences for this program might include:

  • mixed groups of administrators, classroom teachers, and arts specialists, to help them explore team-building and planning skills; and
  • directors of curriculum and instruction, to promote ideas for tapping into teachers’ leadership and planning skills.

Before Watching

This Leadership Team was formed, in part, to ensure continuity of the school’s vision and mission, even if the current principal should leave.

As you watch this program, consider these questions:

  • What are some other reasons to have a Leadership Team?
  • What are the benefits to the school of having a Leadership Team?
  • What benefits do members of the Leadership Team gain by serving?
  • What kinds of knowledge and skills do you think you would need to serve effectively on a Leadership Team at your school?
  • How would you acquire these skills?


Kathleen Hurstell Riedlinger
Kathleen Hurstell Riedlinger has a master’s degree in educational administration and has been principal at Lusher Alternative Elementary School for 21 years. When she became principal in 1981, Lusher had 500 students in kindergarten to sixth grade and ranked 13th in the district on standardized test scores. As of spring 2002, Lusher has 1,100 students at two sites, serves students through eighth grade, and is the top-scoring school in the district and the highest-scoring school in the state with a significant poverty rate.

Q. Briefly describe the role of the arts at Lusher.

A. At Lusher, the arts play many roles. They offer new perspectives and provide new strategies for teaching and learning in the traditional content areas. Lusher teachers use paintings to teach color concepts in science, use dance to teach about geometry and sets in math, and use drama to extend reading and writing lessons.

The arts are also a central, essential part of the Lusher curriculum in their own right. Lusher teachers create lessons and units about the artists included in our arts curriculum because they believe that these artists are an important part of what every child needs to know. They believe that knowing about the arts can add beauty, feeling, richness, and complexity of thought to the lives of their students. At Lusher, an important role of the arts is to make that beauty, feeling, richness, and complexity part of every child’s daily life at school and to inspire children to keep the arts as a significant part of their lives.

Q. What arts specialists do you have at Lusher? How do you fund the arts programs at Lusher?

A. The following arts specialists work at the Lusher elementary site: one music teacher, a “half” dance teacher, a “half” drama teacher, a “half” talented-in-theatre teacher, one talented-in-visual-art teacher, and an itinerant talented-in-music teacher who comes a couple of hours per week. “Half” teachers also work at the middle school site.

Staffing for specialists comes from our regular staffing formula (allocated from student enrollment). A part of the music position is provided by the school district. The “talented” teachers are provided by the state-funded gifted and talented program. Grants, PTA support, and other fundraisers fund the other aspects of the arts program, supplies, and staff development.

Q. How long have you had a Leadership Team at Lusher?

A. The Leadership Team was established in 1998, when Lusher did a complete renewal of its commitment to the arts in becoming both a district and citywide school with the theme of Celebrating Cultural Diversity Through High Academics and the Arts. The Leadership Team evolved out of an advisery committee started in 1985. The advisery committee was composed of upper- and lower-grade chairs, a union representative, and a ranking teacher. The committee members changed yearly depending on teacher elections. In the process of reaffirming our school vision and mission, we decided that the advisery committee would continue and be responsible for school operations.

It was felt that in order to achieve our goal of a shared vision and maintain our focus of a high academic program that integrates the arts into all aspects of the program, a Leadership Team needed to be formed to be responsible for maintaining our vision and filtering other aspects of the program through that vision.

Q. Do the participants in the Leadership Team vary from year to year?

A. Yes, but there is slight variation due to teacher movement and change of circumstances. The team is composed of both veteran and new teachers from various grade levels. There is one arts specialist on the team. The message is clearly that the arts program is not the responsibility of the arts specialists. Even if we had no specialists, the arts would still be an integral part of our program through the regular classroom teachers.

Q. Describe the time commitment of the Leadership Team members.

A. The team meets at least once a month and usually more often. (Our school had a fire this year, which made things a lot different. Survival was the theme.) Meetings are held before, during, and sometimes after the school day. Meetings range from 20 minutes to several hours. The team is always consulted before policy decisions are made.

Q. What kinds of issues does the Leadership Team address over the course of the year?

A. Curriculum issues and policies affecting the instructional program are handled through the Leadership Team. This year, they provided valuable support and leadership in the time after the fire to direct instructional decisions. This summer [2002] they are working on a curriculum project using the state standards and arts standards to streamline lesson plans … and assist teachers in developing instructional units. The team also makes recommendations on how district initiatives fit into our school vision.

Q. Describe the Arts Celebration and give examples of similar projects.

A. The Arts Celebration is held yearly to showcase student work in all of the art forms. It is usually a collaborative effort of students, teachers, and parents for both the elementary and middle school sites. The exact form changes yearly (they keep me guessing) and often centers on a school theme.

Environmental nights are also held at the middle school and elementary students participate in these events. In the past we have had the Renaissance Feast, the Greek Feast, and last year a multi-arts, inquiry-based production called Quest that was written, directed, choreographed, and staged by students. Student artwork and performances are also showcased at our Annual Crawfish Boil — a community celebration and our largest fundraiser.

This year, students welcomed back the two women who integrated Lusher 40 years ago for a two-day Diversity Celebration where student artwork, poems, dances, musical tributes, and writings were used to commemorate the cultural diversity so valued in our program.