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Four school moves leaves Moton parents eager for permanent site

Students at Robert Russa Moton Charter School need a permanent school.

That was the message several parents and teachers delivered to Moton’s governing board during its quarterly meeting Jan. 16.

“Our children need a school,” teacher Kya McLaurin told members of Advocates for Innovative Schools.

Moton, a year-round school, has moved four times during its seven years as a charter school.

It started at St. Leo the Great School on Abundance Street, moved to St. James Major Catholic Church on Gentilly Boulevard in 2007, relocated to St. Paul the Apostle Church on Chef Menteur in the 2008-09 school year and then moved back to St. James Major for the 2011-12 school year.

The school currently leases 15 classrooms from St. James Major Catholic Church at 3774 Gentilly Blvd. School leaders hope to procure a school building at Curran Blvd. at Meyn St. in eastern New Orleans.

McLaurin wasn’t alone. Three parents showed up to voice concerns over the school’s lack of a permanent facility.

“I coach some of the kids here, and I see a frustration,” said De’Jon Hardges, a coach whose child attends Moton. “I had one little boy who was frustrated because [of one of the moves]. He was getting into trouble and I had to calm him down and make him realize, ‘It’s not that the city doesn’t like you’. These children are a lot smarter than what many people want to give them credit for.”

Kesha Thornton said she expects the best schooling situation for her child.

“Why don’t these children have a beautiful science lab?” Thornton said before wondering aloud whether the school’s instability would be different if its student population wasn’t predominantly black.

Ninety-nine percent are African-American and nearly all of them are eligible to receive either free or reduced-priced meals, according to state data.

“If this school was in Kenner or Metairie or Plaquemines, funds would come in,” Thornton said. “This wouldn’t be an issue. But because we have this ethnic group here, there are so many discrepancies.”

Principal and chief executive officer Paulette Bruno said she believes the location at Curran and Meyn offers a great option for the school.

“This site is an excellent choice for Moton,” Bruno said. “Over fifty percent of our children come from New Orleans East. That could be a factor that decreases our transportation costs.”

Also during the meeting, Moton’s board voted to accept a statement from their new financial manager, Stephanie Chambliss, showing that the school is currently being run at a surplus.

They, then went into an executive session to discuss personnel matters, specifically complaints filed with the Board of Ethics regarding Bruno’s employing and promoting two of her daughters-in-law, Suzanne Encalarde, a teacher, and L’Tanya Randolph Bruno, Moton’s data manager.

Encalarde has been a certified teacher at Moton since 2008, and became Bruno’s daugher-in-law in 2010, according to the Board of Ethics report.

Bruno contends that no wrongdoing occurred. “Certain things about this are not clear,” she said. “One of these people [Encalarde] is a certified teacher. That’s supposed to be an automatic exemption.”

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