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Board approved to take over two additional schools, but delays final decision

Choice Foundation, operators of Lafayette Academy and Esperanza Charter School, has been approved to charter two more schools, McDonogh 42 and a yet to be named school in Jefferson Parish, the Choice board of directors said at their monthly meeting, Feb.1.

Board President James Huger said that while the foundation has been given the “all clear” to take over McDonogh 42, there’s a slim chance the deal might collapse if the school’s current board sues the state Board of Elementary & Secondary Education, as threatened.  

“If they were to get an SPS of 75 or over when the latest results come out in May, TCSA (the Treme Charter School Association) might try and get back its charter and keep its operation,” Huger said. “It’s a long shot but it could happen.”

Lafayette Principal Mickey Landry said TCSA will argue that holds a five-year charter and thus deserves an extra two years to boost academic performance before the charter is revoked.

TCSA lost its charter after three years of low test scores; the recent School Performance Score was 62.6. The minimum SPS has been raised to 75.

Landry said he and Fran Trujillo, Choice’s principal-elect for the school have had several meetings with McDonogh 42 staff and parents in the past few days to assess the situation and quell worries that heads will roll as an immediate result of the takeover.

“We want to keep all the kids … we’re not going to cherry-pick students,” Landry said. “All the teachers will be thoroughly assessed and then a decision will be made…It won’t be hasty.”

“Frankly, we got the toughest school out there,” Landry said. “It’s going to be a hard one so we need all the help we can get.”

After an hour-long discussion of McDonogh 42, the board turned its attention to the Jefferson Parish school it has been authorized to charter. Landry advised the board to delay a decision on the matter citing uncertainties over the charter school movement in Jefferson.

Landry said the incoming principal might not be as welcoming to the idea of charter schools as the departing one.

He told the board it has two years to make a decision on the Jefferson takeover. “I suggest we wait till the end of it to decide,” Landry said. “We just added another school and do not want to expand too quickly.”

The board approved a motion to postpone the decision until the end of the year.

The two-hour meeting ended with Huger discussing negotiations to lease Grace Episcopal Church, a vacated 15,000 sq. ft. building at 3700 Canal St., for use as Choice’s headquarters.

The board said that if the lease works out, it plans to house Lafayette’s eighth-grade students within the former church, along with its Pre-K and kindergarten program.

The board meeting ended at 6:30 p.m.

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