Lagniappe charter votes to return to general oversight of Orleans School Board

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Lagniappe Academies today became the second Recovery School District charter school to decide to leave the state-run district and return to the Orleans Parish School Board.

Board member Dan Henderson said after conversations with CEO Kendall Petri, the board decided to reconsider its November decision, when they voted to remain with the RSD. The vote to come under the general oversight of the School Board was 5-0.

“I must admit, it was a hurried meeting,” Henderson said of the November meeting.

Monday is the deadline for making the decision to switch oversight agencies. All other eligible school board have voted on the issue, and none is scheduled to have a meeting for possible consideration.

As a relatively small school, enrolling 180 students, board members thought joining the local School Board would give them greater access to more budget-friendly cooperative services. Henderson gave the example of nursing services for the school, which they currently contract out.

The Lagniappe board will continue to run the school, setting policy and making budget decisions, which is in line with the independence sought by charter operators. Whether charters are associated with the Recovery School District or the Orleans Parish School Board, the agencies provide only general oversight and arrange for some coordination if sought by the schools.

Board member Dan Forman stressed that the Recovery School District had been designed as a temporary, turnaround district, and that schools in good academic shape were always supposed return to the School Board.

Henderson lauded the School Board’s highly graded charters.

“It hit me between the eyes, that that’s who we ought to be associated with,” Henderson said of OPSB.

A 2010 state-level policy change put the decision to return into the hands of charter schools themselves, rather than an automatic return process.

Of 36 Recovery School District charter schools eligible to return to local control next year, only one other had chosen to do so.

As of midday Friday, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Executive Director Shan Davis said the state has only received notice from one school wishing to transfer to Orleans Parish. That came from Friends of King’s board of directors, which voted to return Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School to the Orleans Parish School Board beginning in the 2015-16 school year.

Henderson, adding to Forman’s point about academic recovery, said “We looked down and said, ‘We’ve recovered.’ ”

The kindergarten-through-fourth-grade school received a C letter grade from the state this year. Henderson pointed out they barely missed a B.

With growing enrollment, Lagniappe is under pressure to find a larger campus and the lease it holds for land in Treme is up at the end of the summer. The school is housed in several portable classrooms there.

Board members seemed confident the Orleans Parish School Board would work with them to ensure the school had educational space.

“They are very aware of our issues,” Forman said.

Lagniappe will notify the state school board of its intent to return to OPSB and the school will work with the district to create an operating agreement. School Board and state approval are still necessary.

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