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New Orleans College Prep didn’t notify the public, media about its CEO search committee meetings

The committee charged with finding a permanent CEO for New Orleans College Prep appears to have violated state law by not properly notifying the public and the media of its meetings.

Board President Peter Harding acknowledged one meeting wasn’t properly announced.

“Inadvertently the March 31st meeting of the CEO Search Committee was not properly posted,” he wrote in an email. “We regret this error.”

The state Open Meetings Law requires public bodies to announce meetings and post an agenda at least 24 hours in advance.

It also requires them to notify members of the media who request it. Neither The Lens nor Uptown Messenger received notices for the committee’s meetings in March and April.

It’s the second time this year a charter school organization has failed to announce its meetings as it sought a CEO. In March, ReNEW Schools received a warning from the state Department of Education for failing to notify the public that its search committee held two meetings to interview candidates.

New Orleans College Prep’s board has known since August it needed a new leader. That’s when founder and CEO Ben Kleban won a seat on the Orleans Parish School Board.

Kleban appointed Natalie Kaharick and Andy Parker as co-CEOs. Parker resigned in February and Kaharick has been “acting CEO” since.

Last week, the board voted unanimously to hire Kaharick for the 2017-18 school year while it looks for a permanent CEO.

Board members volunteer for search committee

On March 28, three board members volunteered to contact New Schools for New Orleans, a nonprofit that supports charter schools.

They made up the search committee, and they held their first meeting three days later when they met with Maggie Runyan-Shefa, chief operating officer for New Schools for New Orleans.

Runyan-Shefa was also present when ReNEW violated the Open Meetings Law. She did not respond to a request for comment.

Committees are considered “public bodies” subject to the law if they advise a board.

The New Orleans College Prep committee “decided” at that meeting, according to the minutes, that the charter network’s finance director should seek proposals from executive search firms.

It’s unclear how they decided that; the minutes don’t show they voted.

The Lens and Uptown Messenger weren’t notified of that meeting although they have requested agendas.

The March 31 meeting did not appear on the network’s website until last weekend, after we asked Harding about it.

“While we have never missed posting an agenda, we will be even more vigilant in the future,” Harding said in an email. He declined to be interviewed.

Harding said the decisions made at the March 31 meeting were ratified at a full board meeting on May 1.

“All the committee/board has done to date is appoint” a search firm, he wrote.

No media notice for second meeting

Harding said the April 24 meeting was “publicly posted.” The agenda is on the charter group’s website.

Again, The Lens and Uptown Messenger did not receive anything.

In that meeting, the committee discussed proposals from two search firms.

The board met on May 1 and decided to approve the committee’s recommendation to hire K12 Search Group. Harding later signed a $50,000 contract with the consulting group.

He appointed all board members to the CEO search committee.

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