From 2019, John F. Kennedy High School at Lake Area on Paris Avenue. Credit: Charles Maldonado / The Lens

Almost half of John F. Kennedy High School’s class of 2019 seniors were not eligible to graduate, even though many had previously been told that they had completed high school, according to the results of a transcript-review released Friday by the New Beginnings Schools Foundation, the charter network that oversees the Gentilly high school.

The announcement comes in the midst of ongoing investigations into alleged grade-fixing at the school. Since those investigations were opened, New Beginnings’ CEO was suspended and then resigned. And at least five administrators have lost their jobs.

Earlier this month, Orleans Parish schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis, Jr. told the New Beginnings governing board in a letter that the district is considering revoking Kennedy’s charter due to the grade-changing allegations.

“I am deeply troubled by the findings which have been shared regarding graduation eligibility at John F Kennedy High School,” Lewis was quoted as saying in part of an Orleans Parish School Board statement posted online Friday. “The students and families impacted were underserved and misled by those they trusted with their education, and the outcome is both heartbreaking and completely unacceptable. OPSB will hold the New Beginnings Schools Foundation accountable for these egregious acts, and my team will work to ensure students quickly receive the support they need to complete their requirements.”

Police found surveillance cameras with NOPD logos mounted to a Lakeview light pole. They weren’t the city’s.

On Monday, June 17, two New Orleans Police Department officers responded to an apparent auto burglary in Lakeview. The victim told police that he had parked his car on the street overnight. When he returned to it in the morning, he said the glove box was open and the ignition switch was broken off and missing.

The officers noticed two surveillance cameras mounted to a public light pole on the block. They looked very much like hundreds of crime cameras that have been installed across New Orleans since 2017. Those are owned and controlled by the city, all transmitting video to the Real-Time Crime Monitoring Center on North Rampart Street.

In addition to being attached to city-controlled property, the cameras on the Lakeview light pole bore the New Orleans Police Department’s logo.

The problem: They weren’t city-owned cameras. The officers didn’t know who owned them.

The victim of the alleged car burglary told the police that the cameras belonged to Jeff Burkhardt, according to the police report.

Burkhardt, whose wife owns a house on the block, is the vice president and chief operations officer for Active Solutions, LLC, a crime camera supplier and installation contractor for the city.

Behind The Lens episode 37: ‘Once fresh water gets in’

This week, on Behind The Lens:

Marta Jewson on lead filters in New Orleans schools. Michael Isaac Stein on Entergy regulation. And host and producer Jessica Rosgaard interviews Waveland Mayor Mike Smith about the Bonnet Carre Spillway and its impact on the coast.

Frustrated with city enforcement, this woman rented the Airbnb across the street just to prove it was operating illegally

For Ada Phleger, the last straw was the fourth short-term rental that opened on her block.

“It’s uncomfortable, because you feel like the community has never really settled, because there are different neighbors every week.” she said. “They’re not people who will knock on your door when it’s Sunday morning and the floodwaters are coming and everyone has to move their car. … And it really feels like you’re on display the whole time, too.”

It’s become a recurrent narrative in New Orleans: city blocks dominated by guest houses for tourists looking for an authentic local experience. Phleger lives in the St. Claude neighborhood, which has seen a particularly dense concentration of short-term rentals over the past few years.

Phleger, an attorney for the Federal Public Defender’s office, decided to do some digging.

“I discovered that all four houses on my block were all being rented out by the same company,” she said. “And it seemed strange to me because there were violations, or at least small technical violations, on every single one of the houses.”

City Council announces steps to reduce reliance on outside consultants for Entergy regulation

The New Orleans City Council’s utility committee on Wednesday announced plans to shift more of the work involved in regulating Entergy New Orleans to its in-house staff and away from a group of highly paid outside consultants, some of whom have worked for the city for decades.

The consultants — lawyers and technical experts — earn between $6 million and $7 million per year, by far the most lucrative contracts awarded by the council. Entergy pays those costs, but the company passes on the expenses to ratepayers.

“It has long been advised that instead the council should build up its own staff of experts, bring in local talent as full-time employees to take over the bulk of the work,” said Councilwoman and utility committee chair Helena Moreno, who is spearheading the effort. “Under this council, that process has begun.”

Opinion: City curfew marginalizes kids it pretends to ‘protect’

Opinion columnist Gary Briggs:

“New Orleans is at a crossroads with our youth. City officials are arguing that the curfew is as much about protecting children’s safety as public safety. Of course, protecting children is something everyone, first and foremost parents, wants. But as we’ve witnessed again and again, the over-policing of Black and Brown children is never a good idea—primarily because the criminal justice system is so deeply biased against us to begin with.

“As a Black man, I’ve known this reality all my life: When I was beginning to venture into independence, my parents told me, “If the police are driving behind you, don’t look in the rearview mirror. That draws attention to you.” They knew then, as they know now, that if I was stopped by the police, my life would no longer be in my hands. My fate—life or death, jailed or free—would be in the hands of the state and how they perceived me.”

Charles Maldonado

Charles Maldonado is the editor of The Lens. He previously worked as The Lens' government accountability reporter, covering local politics and criminal justice. Prior to joining The Lens, he worked for...