The New Beginnings Schools Foundation voted unanimously Monday night against returning its high school, Lake Area New Tech Early College High School, to the Orleans Parish School Board.
Board members cited the lack of an OPSB superintendent and the confusion of having one of its schools report to the OPSB and the others report to the Recovery School District. Those are the same reasons cited by other charter boards that have voted against rejoining OPSB.
“If we went back, we would be charging down a road that — we don’t fully know what’s down there yet. I can’t agree to charge off into something with so much uncertainty,” board member Wanda Brooks said.
No representative from the OPSB was at the meeting to answer any of the board members’ questions.
In response to a board member’s question about the long-term goal for charter schools, CEO Sametta Brown said that it’s to go back to the OPSB.
“The long-term goal of the Recovery School District is not to operate the schools, but to come in and help to get the schools back on their feet,” she said. “It is like an incubator, get a school on solid footing and then have it go back.”
However, “my recommendation is not to transfer now, until the other schools have become eligible,” Brown said. “The biggest obstacle is the confusion it would cause internally.”
Another reason not to return: The Orleans Parish School Board still does not have a superintendent.
“It will come down to what OPSB does next year with the superintendent,” board member Ramsey Green said.
Board member Leslie Bouie brought up a differing view.
“Do you want to be the leader, or let someone else create that for you? What is the long-term vision? Where does New Beginnings want to be in this?” Bouie asked. “I believe in change, and you can either be the driver of change or the victim of change.”
Schools become eligible to return to the OPSB after two years of test scores above a certain threshold and being in the Recovery School District for four years.
The board also announced that two of its schools, Lake Area and Medard H. Nelson Charter School, received five-year automatic renewals for their charters. Gentilly Terrace Charter School received a one-year extension.
A representative from the state Department of Education described a new renewal process based on one year of academic performance rather than two years. “We are just trying to help increase flexibility and autonomy,” Olin Parker said.
The board also approved a new set of bylaws. They now require that the board have at least two members who have a child enrolled in one of its four schools.
“The key is that we want to have parent participation and need to have parents on the board,” said former board member Carla Major.
The charter organization will delay the implementation of new Common Core standards to allow teachers to adjust to the new expectations, Brown said.
Two New Beginnings schools were chosen to be pilot schools for the new statewide assessment test, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which will take the place of the LEAP test in 2015.
New Beginnings will have a new chief financial officer, Karen J. Craig, a CPA with 19 years of experience. She will help finish the audit that was due Dec. 31.
The charter organization has been given a 90-day extension for the audit, Brown said, but it should be finished by the end of January.