More than 100 people came out Tuesday night to tell the Orleans Parish School Board whether two organizations should convert the city’s last five traditional schools to charters.

ExCEED Network Schools Charter Management Organization wants to take over the district’s three traditional elementary schools: Benjamin Franklin Mathematics and Science School, Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School of Literature, and Technology and Mahalia Jackson Elementary School.

It also wants to take over Eleanor McMain Secondary School and McDonogh 35 Senior High School. InspireNOLA, a three-school charter network, has been approved to “replicate” its A-rated high school at one of those sites.

Tuesday, InspireNOLA won the support of McMain’s alumni group; several alumni spoke in favor of its application.

ExCEED CEO Nicolette London said the experience of the five principals, who would remain at their schools, shows they will succeed. London oversaw those schools for the Orleans Parish School Board until last month, when she resigned to take the charter post.

An independent evaluation, however, recommends the school board deny ExCEED’s application.

Two Ben Franklin staffers spoke Tuesday night in support of ExCEED.

“I am standing to represent hundreds of parents of [Ben Franklin Elementary] to say we are standing behind our leader, Ms. Charlotte Matthew and the ExCEED Network,” said Jacqueline Mayfield, acting president of the parent-teacher organization and an employee of the school.

Another Franklin teacher spoke against the charter application.

“If schools continue to be treated like corporations, special education and experienced teachers are going to look like a problematic item in the budget,” Mia Rotondo said. “Public school is not a profitable business model. It is a public good.”

Several speakers spoke generally against chartering the city’s last five traditional schools. Charters are publicly funded but privately run.

Local pastor Brenda Square encouraged the board to slow down the progression to a city made up entirely of charter schools. New Orleans would be the first city in the U.S. without any traditional schools run by its elected school board.

“I’m very concerned about the urgency of moving these historic outstanding institutions into charter management organizations,” she said.

Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. could decide to charter all, none or some of the schools. He will make his recommendation April 18.

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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...