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With Edison contract up in the air, board discusses options for next year

The board of Andrew H. Wilson Charter School has put off a decision on whether to end its arrangement with a for-profit management company, leaving unanswered many questions about next year.

At their monthly meeting on Dec. 14, members of the Broadmoor Charter School Board, which manages Wilson, voted to postpone a decision on whether to terminate the contract with Edison Learning Inc. and take over administrative duties for the 2012-13 school year.

The board set a March deadline for making a final decision.

Wilson teachers and staff were encouraged by the board’s hesitation to renew its contract with Edison Learning, which expires in June. The company has provided educational materials and support over the past five years, but is deemed expensive and not very successful in improving the school’s performance.

“Divorces are tough, but it’s time to move forward. It’s time to pull the Band-aid off and make the decision to not renew,” said Darius Munchak, the school’s operations manager, who said he was speaking as a resident and as a taxpayer. “I would not renew the contract under any circumstances.”

Janice Bailey Walker, Wilson’s academic director, said, “I appreciate what Edison did for Wilson and the community in the first year. What started out really good has really decreased. I would not renew the contract, as well.”

Wilson is the last school in the state to continue to use Edison for educational services. The for-profit organization helped to open four charter schools in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina, but since then it has either been dropped by charter boards or the school charters were pulled because of lagging enrollment numbers and test scores.

Logan Crowe, Wilson’s principal, presented an alternative to using Edison at last month’s meeting. The alternative, backed by at least some staff members, includes using in-house resources and hiring local agencies for education services. He said the school has already implemented some of these measures.

Crowe’s plan is estimated to cost up to $184,000 next year. Edison’s services would run about $247,000.

Scott Flowers, Edison’s vice president of education services, said at the meeting that there was a lack of support from Edison for the Wilson staff last year but that problems have been ironed out and the organization is fully committed to the school.

Board members said they were concerned by the lack of details in Crowe’s alternative plan, particularly as regards improving student achievement.

“The fact is, the school academically has been on steady ground. I can’t sit here and say that it was because of Edison, just as I can’t say that it wasn’t because of them,” LaToya Cantrell, the board chairwoman, said. “I’m not comfortable with closing the door completely on Edison.”

Crowe, who has been principal for six months, said he’d provide more details and said he’s confident he can do more in-house to increase student learning with the money the school is paying Edison.

“We need a more fleshed-out alternative plan with a better and more definite direction,” said board member David Winkler-Schmit “This (vote to postpone) gives this board more time to look at it.”

In other business the board voted unanimously to add Sister Juanita Chenevert to the board. She is a 50-year educator and is currently a volunteer at the school.

The next board meeting will be Jan. 24.

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