Lawsuit over selection of John McDonogh charter operator delayed two weeks

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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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

    So, the tail (RSD) of the dog (BESE) speaks again and says it has the right to do any damn thing it wants and doesn’t need the dog at all. Well, if that don’t beat all. There is more at stake here than the John Mac campus, but yes, John Mac is a “flashpoint” for the tensions. It’s time somebody started fighting BESE and the RSD. This city is being treated like a beaten country after a war. 03/03/2015 5:38 PM

  • Reborn

    The leadership of Future is Now couldn’t afford their fat salaries AND properly teach the kids in their charge, so they closed up shop. That would not have occurred if John Mac was in OPSB. The real tragedy is that John Mac students, especially 11th graders, had to scramble to find a school for their senior year. Sadly, what’s good for students has a low priority in a charter system that pays teachers as little as possible, scrimps on the nuts and bolts of a good education, and pays its administrators more than double what principals were making before Katrina.

  • Karran Royal

    Almost 4200 students in 5 years have had to scramble to find new schools due to the LDOE and BESE riding roughshod over the citizens of New Orleans. What do you think happens to some high school students when their school closes?

  • nickelndime

    Karran Royal should re-post what the lady wrote on in response to the Lagniappe fiasco and the LDOE/BESE/RSD methodology of school closures, etc. The students and families are the ones who stand in parking lots and outside of school buildings and learn from the “press” that the RSD has snatched yet another school. I have to give Karran her propers on that one. In fact, I think Karran’a “post” should be duplicated and distributed to the public in front of every public school in this city. The problems persist and the RSD makes a public case against some charter schools, but ignores the egregious mistakes of others (its favorite charter operators). 03/05/2015 6:02 PM