The Algiers Charter Schools Association voted 5-2 Thursday night to keep three schools under Recovery School District jurisdiction, despite months of pleas from many in those school communities to let them go.
Improved student test scores at O. Perry Walker High School, Martin Berhman Elementary and Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary made the schools eligible return to Orleans Parish School Board oversight rather than being part of the Recovery School District.
But Colin Brooks, chairman for the Algiers Charter School Association board of trustees, said he wasn’t ready on Thursday night to make that switch.
“I ultimately think all these schools should return to OPSB,” Brooks said. “However, I don’t think it’s the right time to go back.”
Brooks said he can’t get past state rules that some believe will strip charters of autonomy and some funding should they move under Orleans Parish School Board control.
Orleans Parish School District interim Superintendent Stan Smith told the board prior to their vote that Democratic state Rep. Wesley Bishop of eastern New Orleans had given word that he would be sponsoring legislation this spring that would resolve those funding issues.
“If you believe in the benefit of charters, it’s all about parent choice,” he said. “Ask any of our 11 charters, they have their autonomy, but they have the support of Orleans Parish School Board when they need it.”
D’Juan Hernandez, who voted in the minority with Stephanie Bridges to let the schools leave RSD, said after the vote that he shared Brooks’ concerns. But he said he was comforted by word that those issues might be resolved through legislation this year.
“I ultimately believe in local control,” Hernandez said.
Despite vocal support on the part of the Walker and Behrman school communities to return to Orleans Parish School Board over the past few months, only a handful of people attended Thursday night’s 6 p.m. meeting.
Yolda Williams, a fifth-grade science and social studies teacher who has worked 26 years at Behrman, said she was leaving discouraged and doubtful about any of the board members’ promises concerning a future return to Orleans Parish.
“It doesn’t seem to reward the schools that do well,” Williams said. “We were disrespected in this decision. … It flies in the face of the reform movement that is based on faculty and parent input.”
Newly elected Orleans Parish School Board member Leslie Ellison, a Walker graduate, also spoke out on behalf of a return to Orleans Parish School Board control.
“Recovery for schools is just like being in a hospital. Recovery should be the shorter portion, a small time frame. Then you go home. Come home to the school board,” Ellison said after the meeting, adding she was “very disappointed” the board decided to stay under Recovery School District control.
Karran Harper Royal, a parent advocate and former school board candidate, bemoaned the board’s decision, saying it flies in the face of what the charter movement is purported to do.
“They talk about parental choice, parental choice,” she said. “Well, the parents have spoken. In the charter school movement, that’s supposed to mean something.”
After the meeting, Brooks said he disagreed with the characterization that the board acted against the wishes of the community.
“There are many parents who are not in favor of returning to OPSB,” he said, “but you haven’t heard from them.”
In other action, the board voted to approve a resolution that would require a future board of trustees member be chosen with significant input from the faculties of the Algiers Charter Schools Association member schools.
Walker teacher and faculty representative Robert Corvo said that despite the RSD vote, he considers the promise of a board member chosen with input from faculty to be a good byproduct of the months of public meetings. He thinks it shows board members did listen.
“We’re disappointed it didn’t go our way,” Corvo said, “but we’ll be back.”