Orleans Parish School Board finding itself in the unusual role of a salesman

If the Orleans Parish School Board wants to draw academically successful charter schools back into its folds, those sought-after schools have a bit of advice: Polish your sales pitch, and explain what’s in it for us.

Crescent City Schools’ board of directors on Wednesday chided a board representative, saying he should have made a harder sell — and it then voted to keep its schools in the Recovery School District.

Lagniappe Academies essentially said the same thing the next night before voting unanimously to keep its school under the RSD as well. Lagniappe was the eighth board with a school eligible to return to School Board oversight to decide against a transfer.

It is becoming increasingly clear that RSD charters aren’t interested in transferring to the local School Board unless it has something to offer.

So far, 15 of 36 eligible charter schools will stay put for the 2015-16 school year under the RSD. The rest have until Jan. 5 to decide.

Eligible schools were notified in early November that they could make the move, and some have been doing some comparison shopping. And they aren’t impressed with the School Board.

Charter boards have voiced plenty of concerns and complaints about the Orleans Parish School Board — mainly targeted at its lack of a permanent superintendent and its fractious board.

Orleans Parish Assistant Director of School Performance Sean Perkins was at Crescent City’s meeting Wednesday to field the board’s questions. It’s a thankless job that has taken on overtones of a pitchman; he stops just short of asking what he needs to do to get you into this quality pre-owned school system today.

“So what, if any, benefits exist?” board member Coleman Ridley asked.

If they transfer to the School Board, the school can have access to shared services, professional development and seven locally elected school board members, Perkins tells boards.

Member Carolyn Chandler wanted to know if there were any financial advantages to switching.

And member Frank Rabalais didn’t “really see any advantage to going back to OPSB.”

Board Chairman J.P. Hymel echoed those sentiments.

“I think anytime you look at change it’s difficult,” Hymel said. “When you consider change, you have to really feel comfortable with what you’re moving to.”

And without a superintendent in place, Crescent City leaders couldn’t see a reason to switch. Especially when the network would be operating two schools under the School Board and keep one, a recent takeover, under the RSD.

Hymel observed that the School Board representatives had begun flocking to charter board meetings this month.

“Don’t just hit us in November, December,” Hymel told Perkins. “But come to us throughout the year.”

Perkins faced a similar crowd on Thursday at Lagniappe Academies.

One member asked why the School Board wanted charters back, as she presumed was the case from reading media reports.

Perkins said it’s about kids and education and that he was not trying to make a sales pitch.

“You are no longer a school that is in recovery,” Perkins said.

He was pointing out the Recovery School District’s roots as a state-created entity designed to improve schools academically and then return them to their local districts. However, a 2010 state-level policy change allows charters to decide when or if to transfer; it’s not an automatic return process.

“One of things that we’ve struggled with for awhile now is facilities,” member Dan Forman said.

Lagniappe owns modular buildings that sit on a leased lot on the 1500 block of St. Louis Street. School leaders want to remain in the area but their lease is up at the end of the year.

Perkins said the district could offer no guarantees on a building or space.

Member Dan Henderson said he was hoping to find value in returning.

“I couldn’t find anything that was really stand out as a big lure for us to grab onto and take us into the system,” Henderson said.

On Thursday Perkins made clear that the switch was “not a business deal,” but about educating children.

“There’s no special deal,” he told the board.

And he continued to answer the board’s questions and take comments.

“We’re sitting here in our minds saying we’re doing a better job…we’re doing a better job than the public schools,” member Lee Pryor said.

“A charter school is a public school,” Perkins asserted while looking confused by the statement.

After a little more discussion the board introduced a motion to remain in the RSD.

Perkins suggested the board defer its vote until December after speaking further with the School Board.

Lagniappe then voted unanimously to stick with the RSD.

Perhaps Henderson best summarized the evening’s proceedings and the week’s worth of charters voting to remain in the RSD:

“Nobody likes change except a wet baby.”

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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

    Did Padian query these charter boards in advance on whether or not they wanted presentations, or did she or her “staff” just find out when the meetings were scheduled, the agenda, and then show up? Because, if that is what she is doing, she and Sean may as well just sit in the audience and wait to see if a board member asks if anybody from the OPSB is present. If so, then she gets up. If not, she and Olin Parker from the RSD can leave from whence they came. I find this behavior from these CMOs abusive and a waste of time. These decisions are being made ahead of time, and they are not adhering to Open Meetings Law – you just can’t catch them. 11/21/2014 9:10 PM

  • nickelndime

    Padian has hired more staff (why? I don’t know – what in the hell are they doing anyway?). Padian should have enough people to cover four board meetings in one night – that’s if the boards even requested a presentation, which I have a feeling, she (Padian) didn’t bother to ask. Oh, well, there’s always next year – and the next…As long as Sarah Usdin continues her voting bloc and convinces Nolan Marshall, II to vote with her, Bloom, and Koppel, Kathleen will have the thankless and thankful job of Deputy Superintendent of the Chater School Office for the New Orleans Public School System. 11/21/2014 9:21 PM

  • disqus_qtvF4sydqM

    I always thought that the main purpose in the creation of the Deputy Superintendent for Charter Schools position was to entice eligible RSD charters to return to OPSB. Ms. Padian has been in that position for several years and, so far, not one school has returned. I’m not sure who is in charge of her job evaluation or how her performance is measured but it seems as if that ball has been dropped or drop kicked. She is a failure and her position is a joke. Maybe she could start by surveying the school leaders to find out their needs and try to build relationships with them. There are several good reasons schools should leave the RSD, when given the opportunity. Sean Perkins should have come better prepared. It is his job to know what those good reasons are (it is not my job to tell him).

  • nickelndime

    Kathleen Padian was hired by the previous OPSB board, which included Lourdes Moran (who ran for Ms. Algiers – and won – hahaha). Moran went to sleep one night and awoke to find that she had been replaced by Leslie Ellison. The former OPSB board made a super majority (5 votes) necessary to fire Kathleen Padian. Padian was actually on the “nola180” nonprofit charter board for the RSD Langston Hughes charter school, when under the direction of CEO John Alford (coming straight from a NSNO internship), the Business Manager embezzled $600,000. So, you (collectively speaking) tell me why the former OPSB hired Padian in the first place and why they made it so damn hard to fire her. 11/22/2014 2:55 PM

  • nickelndime

    It is difficult to call a public charter school, which has been sitting under State RSD supervision for five years, with a minimum SPScore of 54 (D) and eligible to return to local control as “academically successful.” Does the OPSB really need these kind of headaches or is it supposed to peck at the crumbs the RSD throws out?! 11/23/2014 5:54 PM

  • will_k2

    Ms. Padian may or may not be doing a good job, I don’t know. But I think anyone would have a hard time selling charters on coming back to an OPSB featuring Ira Thomas, who is so obviously trying to return OPSB to its former corrupt ways, and Leslie Ellison, who is pro-bullying. Right now the OPSB is a dumpster fire, how are you going to convince charters to step into that? The charter boards aren’t oblivious to that – look at what they’re saying.

  • nickelndime

    Do not be fooled by appearances. The decision to return to local OPSB control is not the “open” decision making process (public discussion and vote) that these board members would like the rest of us to believe, for example, Lagniappe. The RSD will make its recommendation to BESE regarding Lagniappe’s charter. It will receive a limited renewal. There are problems, one of which is the fact that the school is located on leased property in the parking lot of a closed Winn Dixie store next to a project that is being demolished. What did the RSD offer Lagniappe – facility wise? The Gaudet building on Hayne Boulevard in eastern New Orleans near the OPSB-selective admission charter, Lake Forest Montessori. That does not look like the Treme’ neighborhood to me, but then again, charter renewal is a very important decision, which may help explain why board members didn’t complain too much or too loudly. Two things to remember: First, Lagniappe was waiting on chater renewal decisions from its charter authorizer, the RSD. If anyone thinks that a pending decision on charter renewal has no influence on the Lagniappe Board’s decision about local OPSB control, then you (collectively speaking) could also be easily persuaded to believe that the state and the RSD are not dealing from the bottom of the deck. They are. Second, who, or what entity is leasing the parking lot (!) to Lagniappe and for how much, and if Lagniappe owns the portables, how much did the board pay for them and from whom did they buy the portable buildings? And oh yeah, from what public money pot (cannot be MFP) did the Lagniappe board get the money? Portables in the parking lot of a closed grocery store – great comcept for a public charter school, right? 11/24/2014 6:42 PM

  • nickelndime

    Correction: RSD is withholding its recommendation of charter renewal for Lagniappe until January 2015. Lagniappe (despite what we would expect from its name) is a “small school with an unusual distribution” of grade levels and students. So, the school is like, missing “grades” – Which ones and does it show? Well yeah! You (collectively speaking) try operating a school on the far corner of a desolate parking lot of a closed Winn Dixie store!! And one of these Lagniappe Board members is going to hesitate on making a “change.” Yes, if the RSD, charter authorizer, is deciding what to do next with the Lagniappe charter! 11/25/2014 2:33 AM