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Crescent City Schools may take over City Park Academy as principal retires

Crescent City Schools could be adding a fourth charter to its management portfolio: McDonogh City Park Academy — possibly by 2015.

Board members of the Academy, which runs from kindergarten through eighth grade, are in talks with several charter management organizations, as they look for someone to take charge when their principal, Christine Mitchell, retires at the end of the 2014-15 school year.

In addition to Crescent City, McDonogh City Park Academy is talking to ARISE Academy, The Choice Foundation, New Orleans College Preparatory Academies, and ReNEW Schools, said Mitchell, an educator for 21 years.

The possible takeover of McDonogh City Park Academy was a focus of discussion at a Crescent City board meeting earlier this month.

If McDonogh City Park Academy officials opt for Crescent City, it would be the second time a school has sought the organization’s guidance in as many years. Crescent City acquired Akili Academy in 2012 after former Akili CEO Sean Gallagher moved back to Philadelphia to be closer to family. Some of City Park Academy’s board members would likely join Crescent City’s board, as some Akili members did, Crescent City CEO Kate Mehok said.

The timing is right, Mehok said. Stacey Carter, a Crescent City leadership fellow, is on tap to take charge of a school in 2015. Crescent City’s school leadership fellows program trains would-be principals for at least a year before setting them up in one of the group’s schools.

McDonogh City Park Academy officials asked Crescent City staffers to fill out a questionnaire, a first step in determining if the organization is a good fit.

For now, “there are a lot of unanswered questions,” Crescent City board president JP Hymel said. Board member Carolyn Chandler said she was proud that schools were seeking out the organization.

The board also approved minor changes to its bylaws, approved its annual audit, and added a new member, Tiffany Robbins, an accountant from Algiers.

Before approving the bylaw amendments, the board called for public comment, the only time they did so prior to taking a vote. They did this shortly after a visitor entered the room. Mehok has said that the organization asks for public comment when new faces attend the meeting or when people indicate that they would like to speak. The state’s open-meetings law requires that boards call for public comment before every vote.

Crescent City’s audit was relatively clean. Auditors Ericksen, Krentel, & LaPorte, LLP’s only qualm was that some receipts accompanying the organization’s credit card purchases didn’t have the business purpose for the expense labeled on the receipt itself. They encouraged the board to include this on all receipts.

The board’s next meeting is Feb. 19, at 6 p.m., at Paul Habans Charter School.

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About 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 reporting on charter school transparency and governance. In 2012, she was part of a team that received a National Edward R. Murrow Award for their work following a New Orleans family's recovery after Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Edna Karr Secondary School in Algiers, and she obtained her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. She can be reached at (504) 575-8191.

  • nickelndime

    Christine Mitchell goes back (was a favorite of) NOPS Superintendent (“nontraditional” = uncertified) Anthony “Tony” Amato (now deceased) and was “catapulted” to a principalship at a popular, selective-admission (magnet school on Jefferson Avenue) very early in her career. That would have been around 2003. I see that Ms. Mitchell has 21 years of experience. From where? No, I am not pulling up the LDOE webswite. Well !, if I were a vested employee of the Louisiana public schools, I would retire also, considering that this board has decided to “take up with” (sound vulgar? – Well, it is) another RSD/State CMO (some are listed here – the favorites) and will probably “get rid of” the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRSL). Too expensive, they say?!!! Well yeah, if these boards continue to misspend money on other things out of the classroom, i.e., non-teaching personnel, and uncertified individuals…These bought-and-paid-for audits just keep coming in squeaky clean – – -squeak squeak squeak (like a mouse – I mean, like a RAT). And speaking of nontraditional superintendents, I believe the OPSB is about to make yet another “Amato” mistake when it considers the next superintendent. BTW, the firm that is conducting the search for potential candidates found Mr. Amato a job also, but not with the OPSB. What amazes me is how these potential candidates keep moving from one superintendency to another, and it is not like they are not leaving a trail (fired, left the position, questionable, unaccounted funds, etc.). And BTW, I am sure that Ms. Mitchell will have another job lined up before her time runs out. That’s what friends are for…

  • edpolicy

    You truly are delusional if you think TRSL is not too expensive. Regardless of what is being spent by schools on things outside of the classroom (which, by the way, are often necessary in a system where there is no central office to provide such things, but that’s another topic), TRSL is not sustainable. The program currently requires employers to contribute 27.2% of a salary to the program, and nearly 80% of that goes to unfunded liabilities within TRSL. That’s not a problem created by charters, by the way, which still only represent a fraction of all schools statewide. TRSL is broken. Period.

  • Jessica Williams

    In case the two of you are interested, I explored the rising costs of TRSL and the strain it was
    putting on everyone’s finances, charters and direct-run schools alike, a couple of years ago:

  • nickelndime

    TRSL is the be$t retirement option for school employees, but transient (uncertified)employees do not want it (and do not want to contribute to it) because they will not be around long enough to benefit from it. Nonprofit charter boards capitalize on this perspective which makes it easier for them to opt out of TRSL – the best security system for teachers. Certified teachers are worth it. The OPSB and the other parish school boards in the State of Louisiana participate in TRSL. Louisiana, and in particular, New Orleans, has run a good concept (public school choice options) into the ground. It is still too early to see the results of charter mismanagement and the lack of oversight of the charter schools (Orleans, Jefferson, Baton Rouge, Monroe, etc.), although THE LENS is doing a pretty good job in covering the board meetings in New Orleans, and at least letting the public get a glimpse of what is going on. Yes, this is investigative reporting, but it does appear that some historical knowledge is absent. For now, the “victors” are happy with inexperience and historical gaps, because these are the easiest employees to handle. What is shameful is that many (Mitchell included) veteran administrators know the history and choose to avoid it (remain silent) – so they can keep their jobs. They know they are being paid too much – and at classroom expense. Saying that TRSL is too costly is like saying that having the most experienced, certified teachers in the classroom is not important. If anything is broken, it is the charter “system” in Louisiana. Charter school employees are “at-will” and Louisiana is one of the worst places to be for at-will employees.