[StBernard] Doris Vitier Wins JFK Courage Award

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Mar 13 10:58:14 EDT 2007

Response to Hurricane Katrina Earns White JFK Courage Award

Last Edited: Monday, 12 Mar 2007, 1:26 PM CDT
Created: Monday, 12 Mar 2007, 1:26 PM CDT

Houston Mayor Bill White Houston Mayor Bill White is one of two public
servants who were named the recipients of the 2007 John F. Kennedy Profile
in Courage Award on Monday for their efforts to meet the needs of
communities affected by Hurricane Katrina.

White, who offered refuge in his city to displaced residents of Louisiana
and Mississippi, and Doris Voitier, Superintendent of Schools for St.
Bernard Parish, La., who overcame federal bureaucracy to rebuild and reopen
the public schools despite the complete destruction of the parish, won the
prestigious award for political courage.

Both will receive the awards from Caroline Kennedy and Senator Edward M.
Kennedy during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and
Museum in Boston on May 21.

White and Voitier were held up by members of the Profile in Courage Award
Committee as emblematic of the many public servants throughout the
devastated region who showed courageous and decisive leadership in
addressing the human misery and ruin caused by Hurricane Katrina.

"Mayor Bill White and Doris Voitier demonstrated tremendous courage in the
face of extraordinary odds and they serve as an inspiration to us all," said
Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
"Mayor White's quick actions evacuating thousands of families displaced by
hurricanes Katrina and Rita most certainly helped to save lives. Despite
insurmountable odds, Doris Voitier rebuilt the schools of St. Bernard
Parish, making sure the children of her community had a place to learn and
grow when they returned home. They are both true profiles in courage."

White marshaled the resources and goodwill of his city to provide refuge and
essential services to hundreds of thousands of people who fled the Gulf
Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. White led a community-wide effort
that included diverting convention and event business to open the region's
convention center and public facilities to tens of thousands of evacuees.

When the federal emergency response faltered in the days and weeks following
the crisis, White mobilized more than 100,000 Houstonians in the public,
private, business and faith-based communities to help evacuees rebuild their
lives with independence and dignity.

Houston offered innovative programs to provide more than 100,000 evacuees
with long-term housing, job placement services and public education.

Voitier began her career as a math teacher and had served in the St. Bernard
Parish public school system for more than 30 years when she was appointed
Superintendent in August, 2004. One year later, when every building in St.
Bernard Parish was damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, Voitier worked
boldly and tirelessly, without help from the state or federal government, to
reopen school doors to any student who might return home.

With one borrowed computer, no working phones and no emergency grant money,
Voitier took out loans to hire disaster clean-up teams, secure portable
classrooms, and rent trailers to house a skeletal teaching staff that agreed
to work for reduced pay.

Just weeks after the storm, Voitier reopened the first school to some 300
returning students, out of more than 8,000 who had been enrolled in parish
schools before the disaster. By August 2007, just two years after the
community succumbed to 15 feet of water, St. Bernard Parish will have
reopened five school buildings to serve nearly 4,000 returning students.

Past recipients of the award include President Gerald Ford, U.S.
Representative John Murtha, former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora,
Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko, U.S. Senators John McCain and Russell
Feingold, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, and former Governors Roy Barnes
(GA) and David Beasley (SC).

For more information about the Profile in Courage Award and past recipients,
visit www.jfklibrary.org.
Voitier will be honored for her courageous fight to rebuild the St. Bernard
Parish schools in the face of pervasive devastation and bureaucratic

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