Since 2008 a coalition of parents, educators and community leaders in the Mid City and St. John neighborhoods have been working toward a vision of organizing an entire community around the education of its children. That vision has been shaped by dozens of door-to-door campaigns, hundreds of small-group meetings in homes and church halls, all focused on families’ dreams for the ideal school for their children and for our City. Their vision was to create a school that reflects the diversity of the city both in the children that will attend and in the education they will receive; a school that is child-centered and about more than just test scores. Morris Jeff Community School is the fulfillment of that vision.
In October 2009, Morris Jeff Community School’s Type 5 Charter Application was approved by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The school’s application won a ringing endorsement from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), which called it “one of the strongest applications they have ever reviewed”.
In Fall 2010 the school opened its doors on Poydras Street as one of the most racially and economically diverse open-access public schools in the history of New Orleans. After quickly outgrowing the Poydras Street location, in 2013 the school was temporarily housed on Esplanade Avenue while waiting for a final move to its newly constructed facility in 2015. Morris Jeff Community School currently serves children in grades Pre-K to 8th grade, with a heavy focus on languages, the arts and the development of the whole child.
As a city, New Orleans is undergoing a transformation; the notion of community is at the heart of that transformation. Morris Jeff Community School is an example of that spirit. Our school has decided, no longer to wait on outside forces to create change, but to create change on our own, for the benefit of the community as a whole.
Morris F.X. Jeff, Sr. was a civic leader and pioneer in establishing educational and recreational opportunities for young people in New Orleans. Born in Morgan City in 1914, Mr. Jeff moved to New Orleans with his family as a young boy. He later graduated from McDonogh 35 High School and Xavier University and earned a Masters Degree from the University of Michigan.
After working as a teacher and as a laborer through the WPA (Works Progress Administration), Mr. Jeff earned a position in the New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD) where he became head of the “Colored Division” in 1947 and pioneered education and recreation programs for the city’s children. Under his leadership, NORD built a reputation as one of the nation’s best recreational districts. Mr. Jeff retired from NORD in 1986 and died in 1993.
In the late 1990s, McDonogh 31 Elementary School in Bayou St. John was re-named Morris F. X. Jeff, Sr. Elementary School. Morris Jeff Community School is a continuation of Mr. Jeff’s powerful legacy.