Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Idea Village Nurtures Local Culinary Entrepreneurs

By Joey Lehrman | Email the Author | Follow on Twitter

Emily Vanlandingham of Locally Preserved showcases her preserves and jams as part of The Idea Village's 9-week culinary competition.
In an attempt to reinforce and grow New Orleans strong food and drink tradition, The Idea Village recently launched a nine-week coaching program designed to help nurture the next wave of local entrepreneurs. The competition culminated on December 17th as the five culinary entrepreneurs ran kiosks showcasing their products at the NOLA Brewing Company, a fitting destination for the competition given it is also a recent food and drink start-up.

The participants in the competition included:
The following judges participated in the review:
  • Ti Martin, Proprietor at Commander's Palace Restaurant
  • John Elstrott, Chairman of Whole Foods Markets
  • Allison Rouse, Executive at Rouses's Supermarkets
  • Robbie Vitrano, Co-Founder of Naked Pizza
  • David Darragh, CEO of Reily Foods Company
  • Sandy Whann, President of Leidenheimer Baking Company
The formidable panel of judges inquired about how the participants source their raw ingredients, plan to package and distribute their products, approach to ensuring freshness and safety, what their marketing idea are and finally a thorough exploration of their costs breakdown. And although only one winner emerged from the competition, all participants likely benefited from the exposure and counsel from some of the area's leading culinary experts.

And although the panel of judges and public were impressed by all participants, one winner had to be declared. The top nod went to Vanlandingham, a chef that sources local fruits for a variety of jams, jellies, syrups, and preserves. The top prize includes $2,500 cash and a slot to participate in the Big Idea business pitch competition during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week in March (with a top prize of $50,000). Vanlandingham says she plans to use the prize and notoriety to expand her locally-themed jarred products in other cities.

According to the recent post on | The Times-Picayune:
The judges awarded two second-place prizes, each worth $2,500 in cash. One went to Winner, who plans for his business to become an online bakery delivering freshly baked pies and other goods. The other second-place winner was Davis, whose bottled cocktails are aimed in part at gift shoppers, starting with an introductory product she calls the "Garden District Bloody Mary."
And as noted, ultimately all the participants seemed to benefit from the competition and ongoing counsel. Vanlandingham said she re-branded her products, got organized, and set new priorities based on her experience. 

Joey Lehrman is a retired teacher with over 40 years of experience in the New Orleans public school system. Since retiring, he has transitioned to sharing his experience and perspective and all things New Orleans through a variety of blogs, news-sites, and social networks.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mitch Landrieu and Others Enter 2014 New Orleans Municipal Elections

By Joey Lehrman | Email the Author | Follow on Twitter

Mayor Mitch Landrieu qualifies for the 2014 New Orleans Mayoral Race
Although typically not a long election season, the 2014 municipal elections are fast underway with ball qualifying opening Wednesday and continuing through Friday.

As part of the required process for entering the mayoral race (or any other local election in New Orleans), current Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed his papers yesterday morning, making official all indications that the popular mayor would seek a second term. Landrieu was one of several candidates that completed the mandatory paperwork on Thursday, which included another candidate to enter the competitive race to be Orleans Parish's next Sheriff.

As you will note in the list of candidates below, many races will be sharply contested, especially the race for District C, which intensified earlier this week when the Council President Jackie Clarkson surprised her followers when she reversed her decision to retire as part of an attempt to reclaim her old seat in District C. It has since been revealed the Mayor Landrieu's administration played a large role in convincing the popular politician to run for another term.

The primary elections are scheduled to be held on Saturday, February 1, 2014, with any runoffs (if necessary) to be held on Saturday, March 15, 2014. According to local rules, candidates must receive an outright majority (50% + 1) to with the election on the primary, or the top two candidates will enter a runoff approximately 6 weeks later.

The deadline for condiates to qualify for the ballot is tomorrow, Friday, December 13, 2013.

Source: Ballotpedia

The following is a list of candidates running for elected office in New Orleans in 2014. Check back for updates of the final candidacy list; and, stay tuned for closer campaign coverage after the holidays when the election season will be in full swing.

* indicates incumbent

2014 New Orleans Mayoral Candidates

  • Mitch Landrieu*
  • Danatus King
  • Michael Bagneris (anticipated)

2014 Orleans Parish Sheriff Candidates

  • Marlin Gusman*
  • Charles Foti
  • Quentin Brown
  • Ira Thomas

Coroner's Office

  • Frank Minyard* (if qualified)
  • Dwight McKenna
  • Vincent Culotta Jr.
  • Jefferey Rouse

Criminal District Court Clerk

  • Arthur Morrell*

Clerk of Civil District Court

  • Dale Atkins*


  • Erroll Williams*

2014 New Orleans City Council Candidates

At-Large Division 1

  • Stacy Head
  • Eugene Green

At-Large Seat Division 2

  • Cynthia Hedge-Morrell
  • Jason Williams

District A

  • Susan Guidry*
  • Drew Ward

District B
  • LaToya Cantrell*

District C

  • Nadine Ramsey
  • Jackie Clarkson

District D

  • Jared Brossett
  • Joe Bouie

District E

  • James Gray*
  • Cynthia Willard-Lewis

Joey Lehrman is a retired teacher with over 40 years of experience in the New Orleans public school system. Since retiring, he has transitioned to sharing his experience and perspective and all things New Orleans through a variety of blogs, news-sites, and social networks.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Linking Student Performance to Teacher Reviews

By Joey Lehrman | Email the Author | Follow on Twitter

Gov. Bobby Jindal's attempt to reform and transform Louisiana's public schools encountered an obstacle this week when his proposal to connect student performance to how teachers are evaluated was sidelined for two years. The provision, which was initially approved by the legislature in 2010, will be revisited during the 2015-16 school year, after Jindal leaves office at the conclusion of his second term as governor.

The apparent driving force behind the delay in implementation is the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, which will take place during the 2014-15 school year. Many educators are anticipating a rough transition as teachers and students learn about and implement the more rigorous standards. The moratorium on linking teacher reviews to student performance seems to be reflective of a popular sentiment that schools will need time to adjust to the new Common Core standards.
Asked for comment, the governor issued a prepared statement that said the moratorium will give the state time amid rising academic expectations to gather data and make future reviews linked to student achievement work. 'It is also fair to teachers who are being evaluated during the transition,' the statement says... State Superintendent of Education John White, the author of the plan and Jindal’s chief public schools lieutenant, said the moratorium is needed to give teachers and students time to adjust to Common Core standards in math, reading and writing.

The now delayed provision has been one of the most controversial among the reforms pushed by the governor. Education has been one of the focal points of the Jindal Administration, citing Louisiana "long-suffering student achievement in public schools" as on one of the most important issues for the future of Louisiana. 

Under the proposed review system, half of a teacher's evaluation would be based on the growth in their student achievement. The remaining half would be based on the traditional system of classroom observations by principals and others. This new rating system has already been implemented by some schools throughout the state, with approximately 1 in 3 Louisiana educators receiving the top rating. What's most intriguing is that 4% of the teachers were rated as 'ineffective,' which means they could be put on a path towards dismissal if they continue to receive similar ratings in subsequent years.
Critics of linking teacher evaluations to the growth of student achievement have praised the pause and said teachers should not be linked to yearly gains on student test scores.
'It was not ready for prime time,' said Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, which opposes the Jindal-backed job reviews.
While most of Jindal's education reforms remain in effect, the teacher evaluation system remains both controversial and potentially the most important feature of the new systems. As a former teacher with decades of experience in the public school system, I witnessed far too many instructors that weren't striving to be the best teacher they could be on a day-to-day basis. Apathy and complacency are far too common in classrooms around the state.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has made education reforms the cornerstone of his tenure as governor of Louisiana.

So although linking teacher evaluations to student performance has its limitations (due to the limitations of standardized tests, for example), I think it is necessary to dialogue about what makes a good teacher, and then implement the systems necessary to hold our teachers accountable.

What do you think?
Joey Lehrman is a retired teacher with over 40 years of experience in the New Orleans public school system. Since retiring, he has transitioned to sharing his experience and perspective and all things New Orleans through a variety of blogs, news-sites, and social networks.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Considering Higher Education Funding with Joey Lehrman

By Joey Lehrman | Email the Author | Follow on Twitter

According to a recent report from the American Association of Colleges and Universities, Louisiana is 1 of 7 states to reduce public spending on higher education. Joining Louisiana on this list is West Virginia, Wyoming, North Carolina, Kansas, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

Since Congress initiated the sequester in 2011, most states were forced to make budget cuts across the board, including dedicated funding for higher education. That trend, according to a recent post on | The Times Picayune, that trend is starting to reverse with most states increasing higher education funding in an attempt to offset recent cuts. New Hampshire, an outlier in the study, is leading the nation with a 28 percent increase in higher ed funding in 2013. The national average for 2013 was an increase in 2.9 percent.

Learning Opportunity: More on the Congressional sequester
'Two years removed from the largest decline in state higher education funding in nearly a half century, state lawmakers have used increases in state revenues to begin reinvesting in public higher education,' stated AASCU's October 'State Outlook' newsletter.
2013 will continue a six-year trend of cuts to Louisiana's higher education system, with nearly $700 million cut from those allocations. And the most obvious impact of these cuts are the tuition increases at nearly every institution throughout the state, furthering the divide between those that can access a post-secondary education and those that cannot. However, lawmakers and administrators are hopeful that this trend in Louisiana is about to turn.
The state Board of Regents, the umbrella group overseeing the state's four public systems of higher learning, has requested an $87 million boost next year and State Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, who heads the House Committee on Education, is optimistic the tide has turned, and Louisiana higher education will be able to return to pre-recession funding levels soon.
However, not everyone is convinced that the study is worth noting. When contacted for comment, Gov. Bobby Jindal's spokesman critiqued the study for being too narrow, noting that the state has spent more than "33 other states per capita on higher education."
"When looking at total means of finance, spending for higher education has gone down by 4.6 percent, but at the same time, student outcomes are on the rise," Plotkin said via email. He cited increase in graduation rates at the state's two and four year institutions and noted LSU in particular marked an record high grad rate of 66.7 percent in 2012.

Joey Lehrman is a retired teacher with over 40 years of experience in the New Orleans public school system. Since retiring, he has transitioned to sharing his experience and perspective and all things New Orleans through a variety of blogs, news-sites, and social networks.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Is David Vitter Running for Governor of Louisiana?

By Joey Lehrman | Email the Author | Follow on Twitter

As the 2015 gubernatorial election in Louisiana draws near, there is widespread speculation that U.S. Senator David Vitter is considering entering the race. And according to Vitter spokesman Luke Bolard, pundits won't have to speculate much longer. This from a recent post on
The two-term senator and his wife Wendy will send out an email Wednesday informing supporters of his possible run. Current Gov. Bobby Jindal's second and final term ends in 2015.
Although Bobby Jindal is still undecided about his prospective run for the White House in 2016 (at least publicly), many candidates are already positioning themselves to seek his current job when he reaches his term limit in 2015. State Rep. John Bel Edwards, Lt. Gov Jay Dardenne, and State Treasurer John Kennedy are just a few of the currently elected officials that are considering a push to be Louisiana's next Governor. Only Edwards and Dardenne have officially entered the race.

Senator David Vitter
And for those of you following local New Orleans politics, in a somewhat surprising move, the popular Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer recently announced that she will not seek reelection in District C, clearing the way for Nadine Ramsey, a former judge, who is the only other announced candidate for the seat. The three-day qualifying period will be held December 11-13th, so stay tuned for a final list of candidates.

Joey Lehrman is a retired teacher with over 40 years of experience in the New Orleans public school system. Since retiring, he has transitioned to sharing his experience and perspective and all things New Orleans through a variety of blogs, news-sites, and social networks.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

City Announces Wisner Grant Awards (Finally)

By Joey Lehrman | Email the Author | Follow on Twitter 

The City of New Orleans and Mayor Mitch Landrieu have announced the 2013 Wisner Donation grant recipients, which will allocate $450,000 in funds to 41 non-profits throughout the greater metropolitain area.

Click here to view the full list of recipients.

The fund solicits proposals from area non-profits on a bi-annual basis. According to's coverage of the grants announcement, the city received 124 applications this year. The purpose of the fund, according to the City's website, is as follows:
The Edward Wisner Donation was created from the estate of Edward Wisner to the City of New Orleans as a 100 year charitable trust in 1914. According to the original donation, the Wisner Donation must support local needs in the areas of beautification, education, recreation or human services.
The fund has been the source of ongoing criticism in recent years due to its inconsistency in grant awards and Mayor Landriue's desire for greater discretion on how the grants are allocated.

Again according to the City's website, "Each year there are two review periods: the Spring Proposal Review (February 15 – 28) and the Fall Proposal Review (August 15 – 31). Applications are due by COB on the business day prior to the beginning of each review period."

Several area non-profits have noted that their proposals have gone unreviewed for months, with emails and calls to the city left unanswered. One non-profit discussed how a proposal submitted in February of 2013 wasn't reviewed and announced until December of this year. According to the grant guidelines, the review timeline is supposed to be as follows:
Proposal Review: February 15 – 28
Grant Awards: March 15 – 31
Unfortunately, the delayed review and announcements can make it difficult for non-profits to strategically plan and make budgetary decisions. And although the grant funds can be meaningful for the local recipients, the lack of transparency and accountability continues to limit the effectiveness of our valuable area non-profits and the city's resources.

Furthermore, if the city is going to solicit applications, our elected officials need to be mindful of the time and effort required for submitting a grant proposal. Delaying decisions by 9 months is a disservice to local non-profits and their constituents.

What do you think? Have you or your organization applied for a Wisner grant in the past? What communication, if any, have you received from the city throughout the process? Share your comments below.

Joey Lehrman is a retired teacher with over 40 years of experiece in the New Orleans public school system. Since retiring, he has transitioned to sharing his experience and persepctive and all things New Orleans through a variety of blogs, news-sites, and social networks.