Lawsuit over selection of John McDonogh charter operator delayed two weeks

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The Recovery School District has agreed to extend a judge’s order barring the state-run school system from selecting a new operator for the shuttered John McDonogh High School.

A hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning was delayed until March 20, and both parties have agreed to extend a temporary restraining order until that date.

Susie Jackson, with the support of an alumni-led group called the John McDonogh steering committee, filed a lawsuit against the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The lawsuit alleges the board violated the state’s open-meetings law when it voted in November to give the RSD control of selecting the school’s next operator because the item was not  on the agenda.

Civil District Court Judge Piper Griffin granted a temporary restraining order just days before the RSD was slated to announce McDonogh’s new operator last week. The order restricts the district from “naming, appointing or contracting with a charter management organization” for the high school prior to the open-meetings lawsuit being heard in court.

John Mac has been a point of contention for many months. The storied high school closed abruptly in 2014 after an RSD-selected charter group, Future is Now Schools, relinquished its charter amid a budget shortfall and the lowest state-issued school performance score in the city.*

The Orleans Parish School Board believes the school should revert to its control now that it’s empty, but the Recovery School District has insisted it maintains the oversight of building.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to put the campus under RSD control.

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell sided with the RSD in an opinion issued Jan. 8. Caldwell said, however, that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which oversees the RSD, ultimately has the responsibility of assigning control and could give it back to the local board if it chose.

*Correction: The John McDonogh steering committee is not largely made up of people who also served in a group formed to advise Future is Now board. In fact, there are only two people who served in both.

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