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

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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About Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned to New Orleans in the fall of 2014 after covering education for the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with majors in journalism and social welfare and a concentration in educational policy studies.

  • nickelndime

    What is the difference between Sarah T. Reed and John Mac? Both high schools are housed in or on RSD lease-controlled buildings/campuses, AND neither the RSD nor BESE ever intended in giving up either school or the power to control them to the OPSB – not directly anyway. IOW – RSD retains the power – at least through the next decade – as long as it is in their best financial intetests – and it is now. RSD has already issued a call for operators to apply to manage Reed. It will now do the same for John Mac. RFPs for both. Here’s the difference. A FREE SHOW! BESE/RSD (and sitting OPSB members like Sarah Usdin) decided that Nolan Marshall, II (who represents the district where John Mac is located) at least deserved a SHOW – an effort – a good intention, so to speak). In stark contrast, OPSB member, Ira Thomas, whose district includes Reed High School, doesn’t need a show. You (collectively speaking) must admit that the man has the authority to walk into a meeting and take control. This is a battleground that Pastorek set in motion in 2007 with a weak State Board (BESE) and a handful of lawmakers (e.g., Senator Ann Duplessis). Not much has changed. New Orleans is picking up the tab for a former superintendent’s bad deeds. Pastorek controlled leases back then, and now Dobard says he does. BESE agrees. CMO boards are filled with “locals” who have aligned themselves with the State RSD – but what it all boils down to is power and money – as usual. The RSD has it, and the OPSB doesn’t. Who populates these RSD and local (OPSB) CMOs and single-charter boards (FirstLine, ReNEW, KIPP, UNO NBSF, Crescent City Schools, Choice Foundation, Lusher, Audubon, Hynes, Einstein, Bricolage, Encore…)? You will see by how board members vote where their interests and their loyalties are. Even central office OPSB administrators behave as if the State were paying their salaries. It may be too late to take names (except when it appears in print), but when these boards vote to remain with the RSD, and then reach out to the local communities in which they live and even run for public offices, and profess that they want a local voice and community input, look at what they di and listen to what they say in board and committee meetings and at least be aware of whose side they are really on. It is not with their local community, or where they live, and it is certainly not with the at-risk poverty level students who rely on public education n this city. It has been said that “awareness” is the first step in recognizing when a problem exists. We have a problem!

  • nickelndime

    Biased reporting (in newspapers): Correct in your observations, constance, with a minor adjustment – going to leave a little wiggle room for the uncontrolled variable. Yes, there is always a back door to any school in New Orleans, Jefferson, etc., even the most super-selective admission schools (Franklin High, Lusher, magnets, “talent” schools, etc.). Looking at John Mac, the RSD has been playing tricks all along. I see two different outcomes right now, but both involve running John Mac with RSD-favorites. Right now, I think it could be a Type 2 BESE-charter (perhaps one that has a language-immersion admission base, established, and a proven track record for high school – ISL – not Lycée – although someone suggested it in an early comment). At first I was thinking New Orleans College Prep (CEO Ben Kleban), but the RSD may have tied the golden-haired boy up with Reed High School by having him write a letter of interest to run the eastern New Orleans High School. Kleban addressed his letter to the Michoud community groups, rather than to the RSD, so that may have left some wiggle room for Kleban to get out of the Reed loop and into the John Mac loop, if necessary. The plot is as thick as split-pea soup. I see Einstein, which is an OPSB-authorized charter/CMO, and which last year took over the failing RSD-Type 5 charter, ICS, being approved to run Reed – and not only because it already operates out of portables on the Reed RSD-controlled campus. 11/23/2014 3:44 PM