For all kinds of businesses, the financial impact of the Covid 19 Pandemic has been profound.

At the beginning of 2020, you might have had a thriving business. Midway through the year, with everybody confined to their homes and unemployment at historically high levels, you might have been wondering what your future would look like if your business failed. But, what if you had a business where failure wasn’t an option? Where you absolutely had to find some way to stay afloat. Because your business is a school.

That’s the position both of Peter Ricchiuti’s lunch guests found themselves in.

Operation Spark's John Fraboni - NOLA King of Coding

Operation Spark’s John Fraboni – NOLA King of Coding

John Fraboni is founder and CEO of an education institute called Operation Spark. If you haven’t heard of Operation Spark, and you or someone you know would like a career in writing code for software, you don’t even need to listen to this show. All you need to know is this: if you learn coding at Operation Spark, you’ll 100% for certain graduate into a job. And that job will pay a minimum of $65,000. If you’re currently in high school, you can take classes at Operation Spark while you’re in school and graduate directly into your $65,000 job.

While Operation Spark prepares kids – and adults – for a career in tech, one of New Orleans most innovative elementary educators takes a dim view of the place of screens in education.

The Waldorf School of New Orleans is a member of the largest group of independent schools in the world. There are 1,150 Waldorf Schools in 72 countries. As well as seeing screen time as an impediment to child development, Waldorf schools have all kinds of innovative approaches to education – including keeping kids with the same teacher from 4-8 years. And never, ever, assigning a letter grade to educational attainment.

Keeping the business side of the New Orleans Waldorf school running is the task of the school’s Finance and HR Director, Michelle Fridman.

Michelle Fridman - keeping kids off screens and away from the tyranny of grading

Michelle Fridman – keeping kids off screens and away from the tyranny of grading

The New Orleans that kids are growing up in today is not the same New Orleans you grew up in. And that even goes for parents who are in their 20’s. Elementary education options now include choices like the Waldorf School, which opened here in the city in 2000. And high school and later options include training for a career in software coding at Operation Spark, which opened in 2014.

The more choices people have for living their lives, the more reason they have to stay here in New Orleans. And the more rich and varied the city becomes, the better it is for all of us.

Peter Ricchiuti, Michelle Fridman, John Fraboni - Out to Virtual Lunch

Peter Ricchiuti, Michelle Fridman, John Fraboni – Out to Virtual Lunch

Photos by Jill Lafleur. And check out more lunch table conversation about STEM education with Electric Girls’ Flor Serna and STEM Library Lab’s Todd Wackerman.

Realtor Tracey Moore