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Choice Foundation vs. KIPP: Who will get to take over management of Dunbar Elementary?

Choice Foundation leaders are still waiting to hear from the Recovery School District and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education about whether the board will take over the Paul L. Dunbar Elementary School in Hollygrove, chairman James Huger told board members Wednesday.

“The bottom line is that no decision has been made,” Huger said. Executive Director Mickey Landry added that school officials have had “many conversations” with BESE about the topic. A decision was supposed to have been made already, according to the school leaders.

In April, Choice Foundation officials say they were promised the Dunbar school, but the Recovery School District has instead allotted it to another charter management group, the Knowledge is Power Program, also known as KIPP.

Huger said in April that the board signed a memorandum of understanding to take over the school, and Choice began preparing to take charge for the 2015-16 school year.

Since then, BESE members have met with members of the Hollygrove community who support Choice Foundation’s plan, Landry said, adding that it was possible KIPP officials would “back out” after hearing that the neighborhood community prefers Choice Foundation as the school’s charter management organization.

The citizens group Total Community Action has been contacted by Recovery School District superintendent Patrick Dobard in an effort to drum up support for KIPP, but TCA has not come through, Landry added.

Back before the closure of Mary Church Terrell Elementary School. KIPP and Choice gave presentations to about 75 Gert Town residents and invited residents to vote for their preference, Landry said.* According to Landry, the residents voted for Choice Foundation.

A BESE Committee of the Whole Meeting on Recovery School District affairs is slated for May 28 at Xavier University to discuss the issue, Landry said, urging board members to attend.

“We expect that we will have families from Gert Town and Hollygrove at that meeting to speak on our behalf,” Landry said.

In other news, school leaders underscored their “areas of concern” for the board’s three schools, according to a board packet handed out at the meeting.

Students are still scoring well below national averages in math even though growth has been “evident” this year, according to board documents. School officials are also concerned about preparing upper grades for Common Core tests, given the level of technical proficiency and computer skills required.

To address these concerns, educators plan to offer a summer math curriculum, to  emphasize writing in all subjects, to use Common Core-approved sample tests as teaching tools and to provide technology training, according to the documents.

*Correction: This story incorrectly stated that the Choice Foundation and KIPP gave joint presentations to Hollygrove residents, but the presentations were done separately and the meeting was with Gert Town residents. (May 15, 2014)

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