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Algiers charter board fires CEO it already let go, hires interim it already announced

The soon-to-be ex-CEO of Algiers Charter School Association walked into a 10 a.m. board meeting Friday, where the members were set to officially vote on his employment. But Adrian Morgan’s fate was essentially sealed more than a week ago when the board announced an interim CEO.

Before board members entered the conference room, he took a chair in the audience.

It collapsed.

He joked that he may have hurt his back when the folding chair gave way, lightening the mood in a room filled with colleagues.

It wasn’t the only unusual event at the meeting.

The board members planned to discuss Morgan’s employment privately, in executive session, as permitted by law. But Morgan asked them to have any discussions about him in the open, as is his right under the same law.

The board opted against that but immediately took up a motion to fire Morgan.

Board President John Edwards offered only the slightest preamble with general areas of Morgan’s performance.

“We’ve met with Adrian and decided it was time to part ways based upon these merits: academic performance of all schools, the handling of personnel matters, management of the organization and the interface with the board,” he said.

Edwards wasn’t specific as to who met with Morgan or when.

Board member James Henderson made a motion.

“Based on the information you provided, Mr. Chair, I’ll move at this time to terminate the employment contract of Mr. Adrian Morgan,” Henderson said. He then revised his motion to remove the word “contract.”

A spokeswoman for the charter network said Morgan once had a contract, but that it expired and he has been working at the pleasure of the board for more than a year.

Morgan’s attorney, Tracie Washington, offered public comment before the board took its vote.

“How is it that one-two-three-four-five-six-seven people can come to this unanimous decision without conferring about these variables?” she asked, pointing to each of the six members present and the board counsel.

The board’s lawyer, Mark Beebe of Adams and Reese, responded.

“It’s not appropriate, as you know, during the public comment period for the board to respond to public comment,” he said.

Washington contended it wasn’t a matter of being appropriate or inappropriate, and that there was nothing prohibiting the board from responding.

“Your right is to observe the meeting, and this board’s been kind enough to provide an opportunity for public comment, but the public’s right in open meetings is to observe and not participate,” Beebe said. Later by email, Beebe said he recognizes the public’s legal right to comment, but that the public doesn’t have a right to participate in the board’s “direct deliberative process.”

The board voted 6-0 to terminate Morgan’s employment.

Last week, Edwards called a news conference to announce Lewis-Carter as the interim CEO. The district eventually released a statement that said Morgan and the board reached a mutual agreement to part ways, effective Jan. 11.

Despite what network officials say, Washington contends Morgan has a verbal contract with the board.

After the news conference, Edwards said that Rene Lewis-Carter, a principal within the charter network, was chosen by board “consensus” to succeed Morgan, but no public board meeting or vote ever occurred.

Immediately following the vote on Morgan, Henderson made a motion to move into executive session to discuss the appointment of Rene Lewis-Carter to interim CEO.

Without asking for public comment, the board unanimously voted to move into executive session to discuss a decision they had announced the week prior.

Washington interjected: “You actually have a public comment card on that as well.”

Beebe asked if it was in regards to the executive session, and Washington said it was.

“Any action item I get to comment on,” she said.

Another board member, Joe Hugg, responded: “I don’t believe that’s an action item,but we can certainly allow for public comment.”

“You have to vote to go into executive session. It’s an action item,” Washington said, then declined to comment after all.

The state open-meetings law requires school boards to take comment before any vote.

After the 40-minute closed-door session, Henderson made a motion to hire Lewis-Carter as the interim CEO for “a salary commensurate with the position.”

With the motion on table, Edwards called for a vote, but other members stopped to ask for public comment. Washington spoke up.

“You all made a motion and it was seconded,” Washington said. “Do you want to share with the public any factors or considerations in the appointment of Ms. Rene Carter to the interim CEO position before you vote?”

Edwards shook his head.

With no further public comment, the board voted unanimously to hire Lewis-Carter.

The board will launch a search for a permanent CEO, Edwards said in closing.

The city has seen two other leadership shakeups at large charter networks. In December, ReNEW Schools CEO Gary Robichaux stepped down and Chief of Staff Colleen Mackay assumed the position. And on Thursday evening, New Beginnings Schools Foundation CEO Sametta Brown tendered her resignation, though she will remain on through the end of the school year.

The Algiers board meeting started late, with several members present in the building, but not in the meeting room. After adjournment, The Lens asked Edwards if at any point the board members had discussions among themselves before Friday’s meeting or in the prior week. He did not address the question.

“So Ms. Rene Carter was voted in a few minutes ago to be the interim CEO, and she will be the best person to live out the mission of ACSA and to educate our children.”

Washington challenged the way the board conducted itself.

“There were roving board conferences before this meeting and during this meeting,” Washington said.

“It is my position that the law does not allow the board to discuss “appointment of an interim CEO” in executive discussion,” she said.

Washington said Morgan’s employment status is “most certainly not settled and contested at this point.”

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