Changing the World and Having a Hell of a Good Time in New Orleans

In this Q&A, EP Alumnus Josh McCarty, Managing Director of Communications at New Schools for New Orleans, talks about the moments of joy in his work, the city’s unrelenting focus on continuous improvement, and why the Crescent City just might be the right place for you if you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and be a part of a highly adaptive and responsive education system (and enjoy a little jazz on the side).

What made you decide to apply to EP and become a Fellow?

I went to business school uninterested in becoming a “business person.” I was looking to continue working in education (after working at Teach For America) and saw b-school as a way to strengthen my leadership and strategic thinking skills. Education Pioneers provided the right opportunity to use those skills while working to create more opportunities for kids.

How did you end up in New Orleans after your Fellowship?

Mardi Gras. Some friends and I went to Mardi Gras during the last semester of business school. There is an incredible education community in New Orleans and during one of the parades I ran into some colleagues from my days at Teach For America. We started talking about education as floats rolled by. I had known that New Orleans was in the midst of an unprecedented public education resurgence and got more and more excited to be part of that work.

Tell us about New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO), your organization’s goals, and your role in helping reach those goals.

NSNO’s mission is to deliver on the promise of excellent public schools for every child in New Orleans. To achieve that mission, we focus on three core activities: investing in great public schools, helping schools become more effective, and coordinating solutions to citywide challenges.

My role is to help drive the public conversation about education in New Orleans—the progress, the challenges, the people.

What do you love about your job?

There are so many moments of joy, of lightbulbs going off, of struggle and progress that happen every day in our schools. So while the conversation about education in New Orleans often focuses on charters and school governance, students like Kye Moore (below) and teachers like Freddy Kullman and Sylvia Crier are what make our system tick. I love getting to make sure folks across our city and across the country get to hear that part of the New Orleans story.

What’s it like to work in education in New Orleans?

There is a common belief and focus on continuous improvement. New Orleans academic progress over the last decade has been unprecedented. And yet we know that there is much more work ahead. So every day teachers are working to improve their instruction, school leaders are improving their coaching, system leaders are finding better ways to empower educators. It’s a privilege to get to work within a system and with people that are relentlessly focused on creating better learning opportunities for our students.

What’s it like to live in New Orleans?

As E.B. White said, “I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.”

What does your ideal day in New Orleans look like? What are some of your favorite places to go or things to do?

That’s the hardest question yet. Either a Mardi Gras day or a Jazz Fest day. It’s carnival time right now. So it’s hard to come up with a more ideal day than watching a parade with friends and neighbors. But it’s almost Jazz Fest too!

What would you say to someone to convince them to do their EP Fellowship in New Orleans?

Few systems have empowered educators up and down the system to address challenges and make mid-course corrections when needed that improve the quality of public education like New Orleans has. We quickly identify what’s working and what’s not. Once we’ve identified a problem, we can quickly test out new ideas to address them.

So if you want to work in a highly adaptive and responsive education system, with people who are constantly pushing to improve across the system as a whole, come to New Orleans.