Race and Equity at FirstLine Schools

Many local educators and parents would agree that there is a racialized educational experience in New Orleans that favors White, wealthy, and middle-class families. FirstLine’s mission to create and inspire great open-admissions public schools in New Orleans was born out of local Black parents’ struggle to find quality schools for students excluded by legacy and selective admissions. When Sabrina Pence became FirstLine’s second CEO in 2019 she named our first Race and Equity Coordinator, created network-wide advisory teams, and began a partnership with Overcoming Racism, to continue FirstLine’s whole-child approach to education from its foundation in 1998. With an explicit commitment to centering our work in racial equity, FirstLine’s journey to becoming actively antiracist is grounded in the work of FirstLine co-founders, educator Jay Altman and psychologist Tony Recasner. Quality student-centered curriculum, innovative teacher development, and social/emotional learning programs, including Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, are key to our future impact as one of the city’s leading charter management organizations.

FirstLine’s Race and Equity mission includes the following tenets:

  • To impact the lives of students in mind, body, and spirit.
  • To develop staff who believe that equity begins with the high expectations we have for our students in Mind, Body, and Spirit and the will and skill to provide our students with an educational experience that matches those expectations 
  • To provide FLS community members – staff and board – with a set of intentional experiences about race, racism, and inequity, which will build strong relationships and develop a deeper understanding of our parents, families, students, and each other so we may become more effective educators. 
  • To develop more equitable organizational policies and practices and become a more inclusive organization.


We believe that rigorous and engaging classes and intentional social and emotional learning are necessary for students to succeed academically and grow into adults who can advocate for themselves and create a just and equitable society. We also believe that a quality education is the path to liberation.

Check out this video, featuring members of the FirstLine community speaking about racial equity in education: