BESE committee puts John McDonogh in the hands of the Recovery School District

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To the despair of several members of the public, and despite objections from some board members, a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education committee voted Wednesday to let the Recovery School District decide who will occupy John McDonogh High School.

The cooperative RSD and Orleans Parish School Board process previously developed appears to have been scrapped in a surprise vote that now gives the RSD ultimate control of John Mac’s fate.

The vote came just after a motion to transfer John McDonogh High School to the Orleans Parish School Board failed 2-5. Those same five BESE members — Carolyn Bradford, James Garvey, Judith Miranti, Chas Roemer and Holly Boffy — voted to transfer the process to the RSD. Members Carolyn Hill and Lotti Beebe were in the minority both times.

About 10 audience members who earlier spoke in favor of returning the Esplanade Avenue landmark to the School Board were clearly frustrated by the result. They stood up and left the meeting, filing out past the board and issuing quiet remarks to the members.

Read a live blog of the meeting with more detail here.

RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard said the district could use a similar process to the one currently in place for Sarah T. Reed High School. The RSD has asked groups interested in operating a high school at Reed to submit a letter of interest by Friday.

If they go that route with John McDonogh, the state board members made clear that the Orleans Parish School Board could submit a plan.

Recovery district Deputy Superintendent Dana Peterson said the process likely would take 60 days. That includes releasing the request for proposals, gathering and evaluating responses and selecting a group to run the school.

Member Carolyn Hill asked the board consider a delay.

“My concern out of respect for Ms. Orange-Jones that we wait for the full board meeting in December….” Hill said.

BESE member Kira Orange-Jones has been involved in the John McDonogh proceedings, and represents most of Orleans Parish. She was absent from the Wednesday meeting.

This summer, the School Board requested the school be returned to local control. BESE has requested an attorney general’s opinion regarding the transfer process and who has the power to determine control of the school.

The decision will go before the full board at its Dec. 3 meeting. The board generally accepts committee recommendations.

The meeting also included a short discussion regarding Recovery district laptops that had been auctioned off as surplus property and later found to have contained the social security numbers of some John McDonogh students.

Member Carolyn Bradford asked that the Recovery district provide monitoring for students whose identities may have been compromised in the data breach.

Dobard said the district would consider it and has changed its process for ensuring electronics are wiped clean.

Dobard also announced the district will look into its current geographic zones used for attendance this spring and could consider adjusting them.

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