With last two schools choosing to transfer, total of 5 may move back to School Board

The votes are in. Five schools are poised to leave the Recovery School District and join the Orleans Parish School Board this summer.

Mary D. Coghill Charter School ran it right down to the wire, meeting on Tuesday, the deadline to notify the state of such transfer requests. The leadership of Fannie C. Williams Charter School made the same decision Monday night.

Better Choice Foundation, which operates Coghill, voted unanimously to transfer, board President Keith Barney said.

Barney said he attended a meeting earlier in the day with almost all of Coghill’s staff and they wanted to return.

A few sticking points remain, Barney said, mainly the student funding formula going before the state board this week and property insurance rates, which are higher under the School Board. Their vote was contingent on those conditions being met.

Recovery School District charters divide its per-pupil funding on a tiered system for special-education students based on their needs whereas the School Board uses a flat rate.

“I think we’ll be able to work it out and return to OPSB,” Barney said.

He thinks legislation is on the horizon that will require RSD schools to return in the next few years, and he’d rather move now on their own terms than be forced back.

Community Leaders Advocating Student Success, which operates Fannie C. Williams Charter School, voted to return Monday night.

In all cases of transfer, the nonprofit charter boards will maintain autonomy in setting school policy and hiring their top employee, but will answer ultimately to a different authorizer for overall academic, operational and financial performance.

Barney said Orleans Parish Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. presented at Coghill’s meeting.

“We look forward to Mary D. Coghill Elementary joining the OPSB family and remain committed to the unification of all schools under local governance.” Lewis said in statement issued Tuesday night.

Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard released a statement congratulating both schools on their academic achievement and pledging to work toward a successful transfer.

Coghill earned a C on the state’s report card each of the past three years. Its mark of 80.4 points in 2015 was well above the 54 points required to be eligible to leave the recovery district. The state grades schools on a 150-point scale

Williams also had a C in 2015 at 66.3 points, up slightly from its 64.8-point D in 2014.

Thirty-three of the RSD’s 52 charter schools in Orleans Parish were eligible to transfer this year.

KIPP had five eligible schools, but decided to test the waters with one and voted to transfer just KIPP Renaissance High School. The New Beginnings School Foundation voted to transfer Pierre A. Capdau Charter School and Lake Area New Tech Early College High School. Its other two schools weren’t eligible.

Thirty-six schools were eligible the previous year, but only Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School made the move. Friends of King, which operates King Charter, made that decision after being offered a shorter charter renewal from RSD than they had hoped for, due to enrollment issues. And that was a reversal of their initial decision to stay in the RSD.

The votes of these five schools are more like a first step than a guarantee. New Beginnings’ move is conditional on the School Board matching lower property insurance rates. And KIPP’s CEO made it clear the vote was the first in a multi-step process.

Williams Principal Kelly Batiste did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

BESE will consider transfers at its April meeting and if approved, each charter must sign a new operating agreement with the School Board. The transfers would be effective July 1.

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