In the past couple of weeks, several charter boards have had what, for many of them, is an annual discussion: whether to leave the state-run Recovery School District and return to the oversight of the parish school board.
Four charter organizations have taken up the issue so far. Three — ReNEW Schools, Firstline Schools and Friends of King Schools — decided to keep their schools in the Recovery district.
They run eight of the 36 schools that are eligible to return.
The fourth, New Beginnings Schools Foundation, came within one vote of becoming the first to ever transfer back to the Orleans Parish School Board. After a confusing series of votes, they decided to put off the matter until next month.
Last year, 17 schools could have returned to the Orleans Parish School Board. None did.
The decision doesn’t affect a charter school’s autonomy. Regardless of whom it answers to, each charter organization can set its own curriculum and school calendar, hire its own teachers and handle its own business matters.
But if its schools don’t meet academic and financial standards — which are set by the RSD or the OPSB — their charters can be revoked.
The return process is inherent to the Recovery district, which was designed to turn around poorly performing schools and return them to the local elected board. Since 2010, it’s been up to each charter board to decide if it would return its eligible schools to local oversight.
To be eligible to return, a school must have had a school performance score of 54 or higher in 2013 and 2014.
The three boards that decided this year not to return cited similar reasons as in years past, mostly related to dysfunction among the Orleans School Board and its delay in hiring a permanent superintendent.
Last week, the board of New Beginnings at first seemed as though it would make local charter history. New Beginnings has three eligible schools. But board members weren’t sure if they wanted to be the first to make the switch. They said they may want to wait to see if the transfer process would continue to improve.
The board voted 3-2 to transfer Lake Area New Tech Early College High School to the Orleans Parish School Board. The board vice chairwoman didn’t vote, saying that, as the person leading the meeting, she would only do so if she had to break a tie. But at the urging of her colleagues, she did vote — creating a tie.
The board then decided not to take any further action until its December meeting.
The boards with eligible charters have until Jan. 5 to publicly vote and inform the state of their decision.
Several boards will likely vote on the issue this week. Morris Jeff Community School, McDonogh City Park Academy, Choice Foundation, Arise Academy and the Algiers Charter School Association have board meetings in the coming week. They all have schools that could return to OPSB.
Should a charter decide to transfer a school to local control, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education would consider the request at its January meeting. The parish school board would also have to accept the transfer.
Any transfer would become effective July 1.