School Board discusses suing RSD to prevent it from opening new schools

The Orleans Parish School Board met privately Thursday to consider suing the Recovery School District to prevent it from reopening shuttered schools, particularly John McDonogh and Sarah T. Reed high schools.

No vote was taken when the board returned to public session, and the issue will go before the full board Tuesday.

The School Board is opposed in principle to the RSD opening new schools in the city — a position they made known through a resolution passed in October. Board members contend that opening new schools is within only their purview. They say the RSD was established to take over and improve failing schools, a process that board members concede includes choosing new operators for existing schools, but not starting new programs in completely closed schools.

Last year, the RSD closed Sarah T. Reed High School and John McDonogh High School and is now soliciting applications for new operators for each.

The Orleans Parish School Board requested control of John McDonogh from the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education this summer. BESE requested an attorney general’s opinion on whether they had the authority to return the school and helped begin a cooperative process between the two districts to get the high school running again. But before they received an answer, the state board gave the RSD complete control over the process.

On Oct. 30, the RSD announced a request-for-application process to find a new operator for Reed. They did the same for John McDonogh in November.

A School Board agenda for today said the board was to meet in executive session to discuss potential for litigation over the RSD’s requests for applications “for new charter schools to replace closed schools.”

On Monday, RSD administrators held private meetings with Einstein Charter School and Collegiate Academies leaders about their plans for Reed. They’re the only two remaining after four schools initially expressed interest in operating the eastern New Orleans high school for 2016-17.

As outlined in the RSD’s process, a December meeting was to take place in which interested operators could present their plans for Reed to the community.

However, Monday’s meeting was not open to the public even though representatives from several community groups were allowed in. RSD Deputy Superintendent Dana Peterson said those organizations are part of an ongoing working group.

“It wouldn’t have been fair to them to make those [presentations] in front of media when they hadn’t been prepared for that,” Peterson said.

Collegiate Academies provided The Lens with its presentation upon request. Einstein leaders provided a copy of its presentation as well.

The community is being included even though the RSD has the authority to locate schools without extensive community involvement, Peterson said.

“This is a much more inclusive way in which we’re coming to a decision on a school site,” Peterson said.

On Monday, the RSD announced nine organizations expressed interest in operating John McDonogh High School when it reopens:

  • KIPP New Orleans Schools,
  • Orleans Parish School Board,
  • Morris Jeff Community School,
  • Bricolage Academy,
  • The Linda School,
  • InspireNOLA,
  • Encore Academy,
  • Democracy Prep Louisiana Charter School, and
  • Firstline Schools.

The RSD plans to notify McDonogh-interested groups of their standing by Jan. 31 and Reed-interested groups in February.


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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

    How can the OPSB consider suing the RSD to stop it from opening new schools (Reed and John McDonogh) when it permitted one of its own charters/CMO to apply to run Reed (Einstein Group, Inc)? Einstein did request permission from its charter authorizer – the OPSB – to apply to run Reed! Right? Oh oh! Kathleen!!! Compound that with the OPSB submitting its own letter of interest to the RSD to run John McDonogh. How can the OPSB request permission from the RSD and consider censoring/suing it at at the same time? Does the OPSB lack the insight to see a conflict between the two operations? That’s rhetorical. Finally, this is a flimsy excuse (hence, being called a “flim flam” man) by Dana Peterson to keep the public and the media from watching the presentations and interactions between Marcovitz and Toranto. Why in the hell didn’t Peterson tell them “it” was public, which supports my belief that the selection of an operator for Reed is a “done deal.” Marcovitz has made national presentations. It’s the other one who would have come up short. 12/11/2014 6:44 PM

  • nickelndime

    Marcovitz of Collegiate has made national presentations – Oprah and million dollar grants. Good luck on getting the Einstein presentation. It is being assembled – backwards. Einstein would have been an embarrassment, but Dana Peterson and RSD staff would not have wanted the public and the media to see “that.” Einstein’s CEO and staff didn’t believe they had to work that hard. In 2012, with co-assistance from NSNO and the RSD, Einstein was walked through the process of the takeover of ICS (modulars on the Reed campus). Now a public relations consultant, Kathleen Padian, and Einstein administrators are claiming they turned an F school into a B school in one year. Really!? 12/11/2014 6:57 PM

  • Elizabeth K. Jeffers

    Marta, can you let us know what community groups make up the ongoing working group?

  • nickelndime

    If opening new schools is only within the purview of the OPSB, why didn’t it get up on its hind legs when new Type 5 charter schools were opened from “nothing”? ICS was a Type 5 “new” charter school. Only Louella Givens asked a few questions at that time, but it apparently didn’t matter to Pastorek who t

  • nickelndime

    Looking at Bricolage, which is an OPSB charter, aside from the fact that it was developed through 4.0 (charter incubator, CEO Matt Candler, former CEO of New Schools for New Orleans – Sarah Usdin founder), isn’t this a “kindergarten” charter? That’s a far stretch even for Josh Denson! And with tongue in cheek, I ask, are these OPSB-authorized charters doing “anything,” and I do mean anything, to get approval (a nod, maybe) from the OPSB before a letter of interest is submitted, or are they “winging” it too? 12/11/2014 8:52 PM

  • Marta Jewson

    Hi Elizabeth,
    This list was provided by RSD: Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association, the Orleans Parish Education Network, Stand for Children, the Orleans Parish School Board, Village de L’est Neighborhood Association, Reed Renaissance, Collegiate Academies staff and students Einstein Charter School staff and parents.

  • nickelndime

    Hey Marta – what about VIET (Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training)? VIET CEO Cyndi Nguyen’s “papa” is head custodian (employed by) Einstein – 8 years. Cyndi Nguyen runs the monthly Village de l’Est Neighborhood Association meetings at the Einstein (Cannes Street) main campus, even though she leases her office/facility from the Archdiocese for $1.00 (St. Brigid) which is literally in Einstein’s backyard. A new OPSB charter will open at the VIET site in 2015 (BES incubated, CEO is an attorney).
    Is Elizabeth K. Jeffers interested in the working groups at Reed or John McDonogh? Cuz, I think the work at Reed is already finished – unless a Wild Card shows up – and that’s what THE LENS is – a Wild Card. 12/11/2014 11:54 PM

  • nickelndime

    Please see comment above. Must be an oversight, because the RSD has made VIET a major player in this race. VIET has been trying get into Reed after the failure to have the Einstein Charter revoked by the OPSB. ICS was largely a MQVN Church and CDC affair with Cam Tran at the helm (for the priest/pastor who has since been removed by the Archbishop). Nguyen, et al. had Paul Pastorek on speed dial and contributed singlehandedly to the Einstein shakeup and the appointments of the current CEO (Toranto) and CFO (Guidry, DDS – yes, dentist). 12/12/2014 12:07 AM

  • nickelndime

    VIET’s budget is largely dependent on funds coming through the LDOE for “21st Century Learning Communities” grants per BESE approval, for which the State has come under fire for being lax as far as monitoring, etc. is concerned. 12/12/2014 12:21 AM

  • nickelndime

    If the OPSB seeks an AG opinion on whether or not the RSD can open up (choose charter operators) new charter schools in “closed” schools (as in, closed by the RSD), this is a complete waste of time. “Buddy” has essentially said (Opinion) that the RSD is BESE’s boss. I know – I know – it is ridiculous, but if the OPSB doesn’t actually want to sue the RSD, then don’t, but at least stop with the “seeking the AG’s Opinion,” 4gawdsake. Right now, you (OBSB) have three applicants over there who you know damn well ain’t gonna make a gaddam difference on what happens next. 12/15/2014 6:37 PM

  • nickelndime

    The OPSB has voted to sue, with Usdin abstaining, because she cannot bite the hand that feeds her nonprofit, New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO)! ETHICS? What’s that? 12/16/2014 9:30 PM