A common enrollment process for Orleans Parish School Board charters? Eventually, the local board decided Tuesday night.

The conversation surrounding common enrollment Tuesday night was dominated by confusion on all sides. Here’s what happened:

Board members seemed ready to approve the proposed policy, which mandated that all charters participate in a common enrollment process by the 2015-2016 school year and that schools with newly approved or renewed charter agreements participate by 2014-2015.

But Lee Reid, who represents School Board-authorized charter schools in the Eastbank Collaborative of Charter Schools, objected to what he called a “unilateral change” in charter schools’ agreements.

Board members backtracked, changing the policy language to allow existing charters to participate in the common enrollment system upon their renewal. Because of the way charters are granted — five years to start, followed by renewals good for three to 10 years — that would mean some schools could operate outside the common enrollment system for several years past the 2015-2016 school year.

Three of the board’s charters, Lake Forest Charter Elementary School, Lusher Charter School and Benjamin Franklin Senior High School, got 10-year renewals in 2011. Under that version of the policy, those schools wouldn’t be required to participate until 2021.

At that point, Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard, visibly irritated, questioned the language of the policy, saying that it seemed to apply only to schools with open-admissions requirements.

Board members changed their minds again, with board President Thomas Robichaux saying that board members were considering the policy “as presented in the materials.”

Then board member Brett Bonin, who had been silent throughout the meeting, invited Reid to speak again on the issue. The board approved the policy, with the policy change Reid first proposed.

The final set of policies approved by the board:

  • All charters shall be required to participate in a common enrollment process by the enrollment period for the 2015-2016 school year. Compliance will factor into schools’ annual evaluations.
  • All schools with charter agreements beginning after Jan. 1, 2013, will be required to participate in a common enrollment process by the 2014-2015 school year. All charters with agreements established prior to Jan. 1 will participate in that common enrollment process upon charter renewal.

The two time frames seem to conflict; that’s an issue that board Vice President Lourdes Moran said “the new board will have to work out.”

School Board members appeared to be worried about getting sued, with Moran saying, “The last thing we want to spend any taxpayer money on is more litigation.”

Some observers weren’t happy with the board’s baffling decision, as evidenced by a handful of angry parents from the district’s traditionally run schools. Proposed policy from the Louisiana Department of Education mandates that that the board’s traditionally run schools participate in the OneApp process next year.

Parents from Benjamin Franklin Elementary School said it was unfair that the traditional schools had to participate before the charters. Jackie Mayfield, a Franklin parent, and several others called for a deferral of the decision until all schools were required to participate.

View their comments in the live blog below.

For other items of note during the meeting, see the agenda.

Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her...