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FirstLine schools oppose return to Orleans school board governance

The board that runs FirstLine Schools voted last month not to return three of the network’s schools to Orleans Parish School Board governance.

Arthur Ashe Charter School, Langston Hughes Academy and Samuel J. Green Charter School were eligible to be returned to OPSB governance. All five FirstLine Schools operate under the Recovery School District’s governance.

Seven parents, as well as Stan Smith, interim superintendent of the Orleans Parish School Board, showed up at the Nov. 20 board meeting at Arthur Ashe Charter School to discuss the issue.

“The governance committee is recommending that the board resolve not to return to OPSB control at this time,” said Alison Hartman, co-chair of FirstLine’s governance committee.

Co-chair of the committee Greg St. Etienne cited OPSB’s lack of participation in the OneApp program, as well as “recent inequity in the distribution of funding for special education” as the main reasons FirstLine is against transferring the schools to OPSB.

“When those things get resolved, and we think they will, we certainly will revisit our position,”  Etienne said.

Cheryl Berzat, a parent of a student at Ashe, commented, “I have a son with a disability and, at the end of the day, I want him to be productive. When the school is turned over to OPSB and they cut funding for students with disabilities, my son is looked at as a statistic. So, I ask you to help me help my son. Please don’t turn [Ashe] over to OPSB. Give more funding to children with disabilities.”

The motion was approved unanimously.

Ashe leaders Sivi Domango and Sabrina Pence gave a presentation on the school and its recent progress at the end of the meeting.

Schools’ scores across the state were made public at the end of October, and it was revealed that Ashe has gone from a D to a B in the past two years, and is currently in the top 10 percent of Louisiana schools overall in growth. Two percent of Ashe’s students are enrolled in the gifted program and 17 percent are in special education classes, among the highest in the city.

In other news, on Dec. 2, FirstLine announced it will open NOLA Career and Technical Academy next fall. The new school “will offer a new pathway for students interested in pursuing a career directly after high school,” a news release from the school said.

“NOLA Tech’s mission is to provide well-structured, career-oriented education pathways for young people seeking to acquire the foundational skills and workforce training required to be competitive professionals in the economic marketplace and positive citizens of our community.”

In addition to St. Etienne and Hartman, board members present were Lawrence Kullman, Catherine Pierson, Brian Egana, Kim Henry, Stephen Rosenthal and Monique Cola.

Board members absent were Charleen Blache, Paul Pechon, George Freeman, Christian Rhodes and Darleene Peters.

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