With just months left, staff seeks resignation of Lagniappe interim principal

The vice chairman of the governing board of the soon-to-close Lagniappe Academies charter school has sent home the acting principal for “a couple days,” after 20 teachers and staff signed a petition calling for her to resign.

The state last month decided not to renew the kindergarten-through-fourth-grade school’s charter at the end of this academic year, saying the school failed in its duty to properly teach special-education students.

A one-page petition drafted by four staff members, and signed by 21, alleges acting Principal Alison McCormick was part of that problem. They say she failed to properly monitor and carry out special-education law even after a scathing report was issued by the state. Teacher Thomas Mickley-Doyle, who helped author the petition, said all but one full-time employee signed the document.

The teachers and staff “have lost faith in Ms. McCormick to lead the school honorably” and transparently during the shutdown process.

Reached by phone earlier today, McCormick said she planned to consult with Board Vice Chairman Dan Henderson before speaking about the matter.

McCormick is the acting school principal after CEO Kendall Petri and Chief Operating Officer Ninh Tran departed earlier this month. McCormick is named several times in the 167-page report, often alongside Petri.

Henderson said McCormick is taking time off after staff hand-delivered the petition to her yesterday.

“I met with Ms. McCormick yesterday and asked her to take a couple days off so we can maintain stability at the school and move forward,” Henderson said.

“It is reminiscent of a revolt by angry people, including teachers and parents who have spent five years implementing their passion to educate far-behind children,” Henderson said. “They’re losing [the object of] that passion and also see their job tenure coming to a halt and I personally, I feel that the board is in sympathy with their situation.

“This interruption is a distraction, but the staff and teachers feel so strongly that Ms. McCormick should resign that the board is going to, as soon as possible, meet to consider and deal with it,” he said.

The board has scheduled a meeting Wednesday night. The only item on the agenda is an executive session to address personnel issues.

According to one affidavit in the state’s report, McCormick instructed a staff member to “make up” test scores for three students. When the staff member refused McCormick said “I am your boss and telling you to do something.”

The affidavit states McCormick relented when the staff member said they would report the incident to the state, but that the students were pulled from that class for makeup testing.

In the past, RSD officials have said they do not have direct influence over the charter’s staffing decisions. District Deputy Chief of Staff Laura Hawkins said the options afforded to the RSD were to either renew or non-renew the school’s charter.

This story was updated to note that a board meeting was scheduled for Wednesday night. (April 1, 2015)

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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.

  • Marta Jewson
  • nickelndime

    This Lagniappe Board is preparing to shut down. They don’t want any more trouble or publicity coming out of that school. They are already dead in the water, and quite frankly, they “smell.” So, what does it (the board) do? Send Alison “Ali” home (with pay). And if Ali never comes back, you can believe that she will be paid to remain at home so she will not be a stark reminder to the rest of the employees that the administrators (the CEO, the CFO, and the COO/CAO) didn’t know what in the hell they were doing “academically,” special education included and “financially” – and that is the fault of the Lagniappe Board – not the students, not the parents, and not the teaching personnel. And come May, it is over. 03/31/2015 8:15 PM

  • nickelndime

    Oh goody – a Lagniappe Board meeting on April 1, 2015 ! 04/01/2015 2:15 PM

  • nickelndime

    OMAGAWD “tchrnola” – I am off of my chair – why has the U.S. Attorney or the FBI not picked up the “crumbs” in this trail/case leading from the nonprofit Lagniappe charter board straight to the RSD State Department of Education? Millions of dollars in public money earmarked for public education – 5 years of mismanagement – a CEO without any professional educational credentials – a Vietnamese (we love diversity) CFO who has mismanaged funds (how did this pass an annual audit?) Louisiana Legislative Auditor (LLA), where have you been, Son? It’s not like the red flags were not going up. I must agree that Dan Henderson reminds me of a harp seal who has been attacked and doesn’t understand why. 04/02/2015 12:43 AM/12:46 AM

  • Karran Royal

    I think the LDOE needs a new strategy for dealing with failed charters. This business of disbursing children is not accountability to the parents and is disruptive to the children. I hold the BESE, LDOE and the Lagniappe Charter Board equally at fault for this disaster at Lagniappe Academies. The state needs better oversight and monitoring methods. They certainly need a plan to ousts the CMO once it has been decided that they are incompetent. Watching this unfold is very painful for the parents at this school. I hope out of this comes a better way to deal with failed charter organizations. This is all too crazy. I could never have envisioned something this dysfunctional in public education. You simply can’t run schools like businesses and shut them down when they don’t perform well. BTW, that board meeting was quite eye opening tonight.

  • nickelndime

    So glad you “made it,” Karran. It’s also interesting to note that the RSD sent two people to help close up Miller-McCoy (probably because the RSD has a vested interest in the Livingston building until Collegiate Academies moves in and re-opens), but the Lagniappe families have been cast aside (without plans) because there is NO BUILDING and no takeover by a favored CMO or continuation and therefore, of no interest whatsoever to the State. This is a very sad state of affairs, indeed, and worse than anything I have seen before in this city, and I have already seen too much. 04/02/2015 1:30 PM

  • nickelndime

    Hey Karran, look at this: REPOST: You DID it right, Calcasieu! I have to give you propers on how you handled yourself on parental choice regarding PARCC testing, while MOST (not all, but some districts/parishes excluded students properly from testing – and reporter Jessica Williams has shown which parishes did), succumbed to State pressure and made it very hard for parents who objected. 04/03/2015 12:26 AM

  • nickelndime

    There’s more, Karran, but then you knew there would be: REPOST:

    Poor Orleans Parish (over represented by charter school boards that are “managed” by a few “select” charter operators – ReNew, Choice Foundation, FirstLine Schools, KIPP, Collegiate Academies, Einstein Group, Inc….well, you will never hear a peep from them because they are deep into “the take” and none of them are going to bite the federal and state hands that feed them. 04/03/2015 12:38 AM

  • Karran Royal

    Where is this reposted from?

  • Karran Royal

    If they are doing to great, then they are recovered right? No need to stay in the RSD that I can see. Of course, I’m sure there is much that I am not able to see.

  • Karran Royal

    It would be great if there was some transparency in how it is determined which schools get help and which simply get shut down.

  • nickelndime

    Karran, this is a re-post from regarding opt-outs from PARCC testing. Formerly with THE LENS, investigative reporter, Jessica Williams, reported on how districts responded to opt-outs. Reporter Williams reported (made the public aware, but “nickelndime” provided some commentary). Most parishes mishandled the opt-outs (which even common sense could have accommodated). The bigger problem being that charter schools in New Orleans need grant money and will do whatever the State wants – therefore, opt outs from PARCC testing are not only unwanted, but unheard of. But there is another problem here – and it is a local one. Seems we can’t get any info from the new “OPSB” superintendent about the opt outs in OPSB schools. That hurts, especially when local supporters are trying to re-establish credibility. 04/04/2015 2:50 AM