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Choice Foundation re-elects entire board in meeting without public notice

Choice Foundation, the charter school board that oversees McDonogh 42 Elementary Charter School, Lafayette Academy Charter School and Esperanza Charter School, violated the state’s open meetings law Tuesday.

The board failed to provide public notice about the change of date for a meeting originally set for Wednesday, Aug. 28.

During the meeting, which occurred Aug. 27, the board re-elected 14 members and added a new member, according to board chairman James Huger.

A reporter for The Lens discovered the meeting had been moved when calling to confirm the meeting the morning of the Aug. 28. The meeting had already occurred by that point, a school official told The Lens.

“I apologize for that – we had to move the meeting due to people’s schedules,” Huger said.

While there is nothing illegal about changing the date of a board meeting, the charter organization failed to provide proper notice that the meeting date had been changed.

The school could not provide a copy of the public notice of the change, a document the board is required to publicly post within 24 hours of any meeting that has been moved to a different day or time, when The Lens requested it on Wednesday morning.

“It appears that the administration did not change the posting,” Huger wrote in an email.

Moreover, the board did not contact The Lens with a notice that the meeting had been changed, even though The Lens had asked for such notifications.

The board is required to notify the media, if the media has made a request, according to R.S. 42.19.

The Lens has emails dating back to April 2011 asking that the news organization be notified of any public meetings that Choice Foundation schedules.

“We dropped the ball and we’re going to fix that,” Huger said.

State law provides a variety of remedies for actions taken in violation of the open meetings law.

Moving forward, the organization said it would be better about notifying the media of any changes in dates.

Choice Foundation has appointed a media liaison to deal with future requests and avoid miscommunications in the future, Huger added.

“We fully want to work with your organization, we fully respect sunshine laws and will follow them,” Huger wrote in an email.

Margo Phelps was newly elected, and Anthony Carter, Dewana Hill, Don Beery, Asher Friend, Fritz Gomila, Hans Jonassen, Janet Bean, Kevin Kane, Laura Sillars, Kate Werner, Pierre Connor, Robert Evans, Wendy Lodrig and William Goliwas were re-elected, Huger confirmed.

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About Della Hasselle

Della Hasselle, a freelance journalist and producer, reports environmental and criminal justice stories for The Lens. A graduate of Benjamin Franklin High School and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, Hasselle lived in New York for 10 years. While up north, she produced and anchored news segments, wrote feature stories and reported breaking news for, a hyperlocal news site. Before that, she worked at the New York Daily News. She obtained her master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She can be reached at (917) 304-6121.

  • Lee Barrios

    “we will do BETTER. . . “. That’s not good enough. This was an illegal action and The Lens and/or stakeholders should file a complaint with the appropriate authority or court. This is not the first time. This board knows better. The Louisiana Assoc. of Public Charters keeps boards well informed of thir legal responsibilities. Until charters are held to the same accountability standards as traditional school districts, they will garner little respect or credibility.

  • nickelndime

    Huger and this group is below, left, right, north, south, any which way, and above the law. So are all the other nonprofit charter boards, local school districts, the State and the Feds… (except like the highly publicized, media-rized and orchestrated drug bust to show that the government is “doing its job,” and somebody gets caught). Tim Ryan (New Beginnings) was in the last bust, but this large-scale thievery ayn’t gonna end any time soon. So, have at it, reporters!