LEFT BEHIND: Documentary Provides...Look at the Orleans Parish School System before, during and after Hurricane Katrina

Date Published: 
December 4, 2006


A new film that chronicles the corruption, controversy and failures of New Orleans city schools premieres Tuesday, December 5th at Canal Place Cinemas at 7:30 pm. A second screening at Canal Place is scheduled for Wednesday, December 6th at 7:30. Admission is $10 and seating is limited.

Actor/rapper Ice T, authors Michael Eric Dyson, Noam Chomsky, Sandra "18 Wheeler” Hester, and others weigh in.
Left Behind, the story of the New Orleans Public Schools. The 90-minute documentary, Left Behind: the story of the New Orleans Public Schools, follows three High School seniors through the 2004 and 2005 school years in one of the worst public school systems in America, before, during and after Hurricane Katrina.

Detailed interviews with every former school board member and most current ones, former superintendent Anthony Amato, current Orleans Parish School teachers, principals, community activists, financial auditors, state school board of education officials and more paint a picture of confusion, greed, politics, and despair that challenge the students at every turn.

Denied access and lied to by school administration officials, filmmakers Vince Morelli and Jason Berry, with the help of students, smuggled cameras inside several different schools to unveil horrendous conditions - from non-functional bathrooms to chaotic, classroom antics by students and teachers, Morelli says viewers will be shocked by what they see. "We couldn't believe how these kids could learn anything in this environment, and it was pretty obvious why the administration didn't want us there," said Morelli.

Left Behind brings a new perspective to the city's educational crisis, and the social problems that have resulted from it. In addition to the challenges at school, the students profiled in the film face enormous hurdles in their everyday lives. And the story reveals how violence - often brutal - is an all-too-common occurrence for many New Orleans school kids.

While the students struggle through the school year, many in classes with no textbooks, school board members and politicians wrestle for control of the system's $500 million annual budget. Relatives of board members and allies of politicians land one lucrative contract after another, teachers and contractors are arrested for fraud, theft, extortion and kickback schemes.

Actor/rapper Ice-T, authors Michael Eric Dyson and Noam Chomsky, and others also weigh in on the state of public education and the social consequences of running a system like the Orleans Parish public schools (read: post-Katrina chaos).

"The school system was the biggest issue facing New Orleans at the time we started filming," says Morelli. "It was frustrating everyone from politicians to teachers. We saw so much human potential being wasted in this system and how that was adversely affecting the future of the city. It was a story that needed to be told."