Filed Under:  Education

ACSA votes down return of Algiers schools to OPSB control

7th January 2013   ·   0 Comments

By April Siese
Contributing Writer

Three West Bank charter schools will remain in the hands of the Recovery School District, the Algiers Charter School Association Board agreed during an emergency board meeting this past Thursday, January 3.

The board voted 5-2 to keep Martin Behrman Elementary School, Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary School and O. Perry Walker High School under the RSD umbrella. Both Behrman and Walker were strongly in favor of returning to the Orleans Parish School Board, with Eisenhower the only school in opposition.

Seven members of the public spoke at the sparsely-attended meeting, with a majority in favor of moving the three schools to OPSB.

Walker faculty representative Robert Corvo was first to speak, arguing that breaking away from RSD would be the best decision for the fast progressing school, which was recently ranked first in ACT scores under open enrollment high schools. Walker scored third only to Franklin and Lusher, both selective enrollment schools.

“This is about every time the Walker community has done something to solidify this position as a premier school in this city and we’re going to take that opportunity. We don’t know what will happen with this board in the next two to three years,” Corvo said.

Retired educator Carol Edgar-Lang also spoke in favor of Behrman’s move to OPSB, saying “Do not turn a deaf ear to our pleas, to our requests, that we return to OPSB. This school, as I’ve said previously, is successful because the veteran teachers came from OPSB and were mentored professionally there and the principal is a veteran principal from OPSB. Please do not hold them hostage.”

Newly elected OPSB member Leslie Ellison of District 4 stood in strong favor of all three schools returning to OPSB, taking issue with the idea of RSD as those schools look to move past recovery and continue to thrive.

“Names are very significant. When you’re falling under an umbrella of recovery as a child, that child is under that recovery umbrella and the schools are no longer in recovery… to fall under that umbrella of recovery [says] a lot to that child, saying a lot to those leaders, and a lot to those parents,” Ellison said, “And the community wants to see those schools returned to OPSB.”

OPSB Superintendent Stan Smith was one of the last to speak during public comment, commending the ACSA Board for going through the correct channels in the authorizer transition process.

“It’s all about parent choice,” Smith said, “And we believe that in community meetings we’ve had that the parent’s choice is to return to OPSB.”

ACSA Board President Colin Brooks led the meeting as well as the voting process. Following the public comment period, Brooks voted in favor of keeping the schools under RSD control, citing potential issues with autonomy and funding if the schools were to rejoin OPSB.

Brooks reiterated that he felt that the three schools weren’t ready to rejoin OPSB, stating that he had taken public opinion into much consideration and maintaining that no political pressure had swayed the board members.

“All of us are volunteers,” Brooks said, “None of us are paid, none of us have any contracts. This board really has been committed – really has been dedicated – to hearing what the community has to say.”

Parent advocate and former school board candidate Karran Harper Royal said that the board’s decision doesn’t hold up to Charter network’s message of parent choice.

“I think last night’s vote is evidence of the disingenuous nature of the charter school movement which purports to value parent choice,” Royal said. “The vote to keep Behrman and Walker in the RSD shows that the parents’ voices really don’t matter and it’s really disingenuous to continue that mantra.”

Royal asserts that OPSB is ready to resume management of the schools from RSD and that process shouldn’t be encumbered by political jockeying. “The ACSA shouldn’t hold the schools hostage playing political games with the children’s lives and disrespecting the community.”

Of the board members who voted in favor of the three schools returning to OPSB, those two votes came from D’Juan Hernandez and Stephanie Bridges. John Edwards was the only member absent from the meeting.

After the vote, the meeting was briefly adjourned before continuing with an executive session on interim CEO Adrian Morgan’s performance as well as a vote on adding an additional board member.

A January 7 deadline had been set for the board to reach a final decision on the fate of the charter schools, following additional input from the public via community meetings.

This article was originally published in the January 7, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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