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KIPP leaders vote to return high school to auspices of Orleans School Board

The board of KIPP New Orleans Schools voted unanimously Thursday to return one of its five eligible schools to the general oversight of the locally elected Orleans Parish School Board.

The vote is the first of several steps, KIPP CEO Rhonda Kalifey-Aluise said in joint statement released by KIPP, the Recovery School District and the Orleans Parish School Board on Friday. KIPP operates 10 schools chartered by the RSD.

If the move happens, the KIPP board would still control the day-to-day oversight of Renaissance and set policy, but the board would answer to the Orleans Parish School Board for the school’s overall performance academically, fiscally and operationally.

“Although this vote does not guarantee return, it affirms our commitment to engage in good-faith conversations that would result in OPSB governance of KIPP Renaissance High School,” she said.

RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard and OPSB Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. expressed their support for KIPP and praised the school’s progress in the statement. Renaissance boasted the highest gains of any high school in the state this year, moving from a score of 61, a D, to 96.8, a B on the state accountability report card.

Schools must score a 54 or higher on the state’s 150-point scale in consecutive years to be eligible. After deciding to transfer, the state board of education must approve the move and the school must agree to a new operating agreement, or charter, with its new authorizer.

The RSD took over a majority of the city’s schools in 2005, and the automatic return to local districts when failing schools recovered academically was scrapped in 2010. Now, charter boards make that decision themselves.

This year, 33 RSD charter schools are eligible to return to OPSB for the 2016-17 school year. Last year, 36 schools could have made the move, but only one, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School, elected to do so, becoming the first school in history to return to the School Board.

There has been increasing talk in recent weeks of returning Recovery schools to the School Board. New Orleans College Prep CEO Ben Kleban publicly stated this week that schools should return by 2019. His board voted against returning either of its eligible schools.

KIPP follows the New Beginnings Schools Foundation, which voted last week to transfer two eligible schools, if the School Board matches RSD’s lower property-insurance rates. RSD is part of a larger state insurance pool and it’s unclear if the School Board will be able to meet the condition.

On the mind of many RSD school leaders has been the ability to keep its tiered funding system, which will go before the state board of education in March. RSD leaders have also asked that all Orleans Parish charters in the unified enrollment system and provide transportation. Upon their charter renewals, Orleans Parish charters will have to join the enrollment system.

RSD boards with eligible schools must inform the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education of their decision to return or stay put by March 1.

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