For the second time in two years, the board that runs Akili Academy voted Wednesday not to switch the school to the Orleans Parish School Board’s governance .
The Recovery School District charter was one of 17 eligible this year to make that switch, based on its academic performance and time spent with the RSD. After hearing from a parish school board representative, Crescent City Schools’ board members considered the move at their Wednesday meeting. They also discussed hiring practices and staff demographics.
This was the second year Akili has been eligible.
OPSB Charter Office Administrator Sean Perkins stressed that Akili wouldn’t lose anything by moving under Orleans Parish School Board control. But Crescent City board president JP Hymel wondered: by making the move, what would the school gain?
“At the end of the day, I can’t point to two or three things where I feel like it’s going to be better than the RSD,” Hymel said.
Orleans Parish’s lack of a permanent superintendent means its direction is uncertain, Hymel said. Board member turnover and the board’s public spats, too, are issues: when Hymel watches board meetings on television, “it’s a little scary.”
Despite the criticism, Hymel praised the school board for working to get new laws established that ease transition for charter schools. The law he referenced allows RSD charters switching to the Orleans school board to keep status as independent district. Keeping this status was a chief concern among many eligible school leaders last year.
And board member Julius Kimbrough Jr. said that though board turnover is an issue, “that’s the nature of the political beast” and he felt the board was eventually “supposed to be back with OPSB.”
Still, the vote to remain with RSD was unanimous.
After the vote, the conversation turned to hiring and staff diversity at the group’s three schools.
After receiving more than 800 applications, Crescent City hired 123 employees for the 2013-14 year, Mehok said. The addition of its newest school, Paul Habans Charter School, and Akili’s move to a larger building necessitated more staff.
Demographics show that Paul Habans’ staff is the most racially diverse: 51 percent of teachers are African-American, while 39 percent are white, 5 percent are Hispanic and the remaining 3 and 2 percent are bi-racial or Asian.
Akili’s staff is still mostly white, at 66 percent, although CEO Kate Mehok said the school “is a lot more diverse than it used to be.” African Americans make up 31 percent of the staff, and 3 percent are Asian.
Harriet Tubman Charter School’s teachers are 58 percent white, 30 percent African-American, 10 percent Asian and 2 percent Hispanic.
Habans also has the largest percentage of certified teachers or teachers who are on their way to being certified – 89 percent, while 65 percent of Akili’s teachers have this designation, and 57 percent of Tubman’s teachers do.
Crescent City also discussed its teachers’ experience levels: Tubman’s teachers have the most experience, though all three schools have a sizable percentage of teachers in their first three years of teaching. Sixteen percent of Tubman’s teachers have more than 5 years of experience, compared to 9 percent and 6 percent in this category at Habans and Akili, respectively.
Board members Hymel, Kimbrough, Doug Harrell, Anna Burrell, Tim Bryant and Bob Stefani were present.
The organization’s next meeting is Dec. 18, at 6 p.m., at Akili.