The New Beginnings Schools Foundation will remain in the Recovery School District after a tie vote forced its chairman to cast the deciding one: against transferring to the control of the Orleans Parish School Board.
School Board staff turned out in full force. Just one month ago, New Beginnings almost voted its high school, Lake Area New Tech Early College High School, to local control.
Three Orleans Parish school system staff members were at Monday night’s meeting, as opposed to the usual sole representative.
“We have a School Board that is charter-friendly,” School Board Chief of Staff Armand Devezin told board members.
Chairman Ramsey Green, a former RSD employee, said he felt no allegiance to the recovery district, but saw no need to make the switch when things are stable in the network, especially after some board turbulence in 2013.
Three of the network’s four charter schools were eligible to transfer to the oversight of the School Board, an option afforded to charter schools meeting certain academic requirements.
But the potential of having schools under two different authorizers was not favored by the administration. And board member Don Wheat, an accountant, warned of an auditing nightmare.
However, School Board and recovery district staff said it would be possible to ask the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for a waiver for Pierre Capdau Elementary School. It’s the lone, ineligible school that nonetheless made substantial academic progress this year, moving from an F to a B. But eligibility is based on two years of school performance scores, leaving Capdau still ineligible.
“It hasn’t been done before,” RSD Director of Policy Holly Reid said of the waiver.
“But it doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” Orleans Parish Deputy Superintendent Kathleen Padian interjected.
A passionate conversation ensued, which hasn’t occurred at every board meeting that’s covered the matter this year. There are 36 recovery district schools eligible to switch but none has.
When asked about division on the School Board, a chief complaint of many eligible schools’ boards, Devezin said that was part of the democratic process.
“We don’t want a rubber stamp on everything that could be wrong for constituents,” he said.
After some further discussion, Vice Chairwoman Sheila Danzey spoke up. She said her family came from a long line of pioneering spirit.
“Somebody’s got to do it — and I say why not us?” she said.
The administration was on board if the waiver could be secured, CEO Sametta Brown said: “It is our recommendation that we would go to Orleans Parish if all four schools can go.”
Then came a few more questions to staff and a lengthy speech from Ramsey.
Then Wheat, the accountant, offered a brief criticism for the board for not quantifying the potential savings for New Beginnings.
Finally, a motion landed on the table to transfer the three eligible schools, contingent on a BESE waiver for Capdau, to the School Board.
Four hands went up for the aye’s.
Followed by four hands for the nay’s.
Chairman Ramsey Green did not vote.
Sitting dead center at the long head table facing the public in Capdau’s cafeteria, he looked to his right and looked to his left, realizing it was a tie.
He voted against it, and the motion failed 4-5.
Earlier Green had said he did not like idea of a contingency vote. He felt it took the discussion from the board and into BESE’s hands.
At its November meeting, in a confused and hurried vote, the board appeared to have approved a motion to transfer its high school to School Board control. But at the behest of her fellow board members, the vice chairwoman entered a late vote which the board then called a 3-3 tie.
New Beginnings will remain a network of recovery district charters for the 2015-16 school year. If its schools remain eligible, they’ll have this discussion again next year.