Three underperforming charter schools in New Orleans are one step from closing next spring after a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education committee voted unanimously Monday against renewing their charters.

Meanwhile, the Orleans schools superintendent is ready to allow two two district-run schools to convert to charters: Benjamin Franklin Elementary Mathematics and Science School and Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School of Literature and Technology.

That would leave just one traditional school in the city next school year: McDonogh 35 Senior High School.

Sylvanie Williams College Prep, ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy and Dwight D. Eisenhower Academy of Global Studies, all K-8 schools, failed to meet the C letter grade required by the state for a second charter contract renewal.

Charter schools are publicly funded but privately run. They must meet academic and financial benchmarks to keep their contracts.

The state raised the threshold for second renewals from a D two years ago. Schools still can get their first charter renewal if they have a D.

In the last three years, School Performance Scores for 65 percent of New Orleans’ public schools have dropped, spurring discussion about whether the city’s charter schools can continue their gains since Hurricane Katrina.

The state board of education likely will ratify the committee’s decision to deny the three charters at its meeting Tuesday. (Update, Dec. 12: The board approved the committee’s decision.)

But it will fall to the Orleans Parish School Board to decide whether to close those facilities or seek new charter groups to take them over.

That’s because all Recovery School District charters in New Orleans will move under the oversight of the local school board next summer.

The CEO of New Orleans College Prep, the charter management group that runs Sylvanie Williams, referred The Lens to a letter the group sent parents last month, which acknowledged that the school’s F letter grade meant it would likely close at the end of the academic year.

The Orleans Parish school district has already decided that it will not accept any applications to take over Sylvanie Williams because of the condition of the building and because there are too many elementary schools in the city.

The charter group “takes full responsibility for the letter grade and outcomes at Sylvanie Williams over the past few years,” Natalie Kaharick wrote, adding that the administration would support families and staff through the school year.

ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy slipped from a C to a D this year. ReNEW Schools operates six charter schools. A spokesman said CEO Kevin Guitterrez wasn’t available to comment.

Eisenhower received a C in 2015. For the past two years, it’s gotten a D. Algiers Charter, which oversees the school, did not respond to a request for comment.

The charter network oversees five schools, including one elementary, William J. Fischer Accelerated Academy, that has received an F three years in a row. Its charter contract is not up for renewal this year.

5Charter applications recommended for approval by Orleans Parish superintendent3Recommended for denial

Also Monday, Orleans schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. released his recommendations for eight charter applications. He wants to deny three applications and approve five.

Lewis supports separate charter applications submitted by principals of two district schools, Benjamin Franklin Elementary, or “Baby Ben,” and Bethune Elementary. That recommendation goes against independent evaluations of their applications.

The schools’ principals were part of a failed bid last year to convert their schools to charters,  along with three other district schools. The charter effort, which included some administrators who work under Lewis, fell apart after the group received a poor evaluation.

Also among Lewis’ recommendations for approval are one charter for InspireNOLA and two for FirstLine Schools.

Lewis supports the Center for Resilience’s application for a school called Querencia. Its application was denied in the spring because the school district thought it failed to describe its recruitment strategy and how its therapeutic program would work within the school.

A committee will meet Tuesday to discuss Lewis’ recommendations. The full board meets Thursday.

The state committee also approved six charter renewals in Orleans Parish. Akili Academy of New Orleans and KIPP New Orleans Leadership Academy both earned C’s this year and a second renewal.

Lawrence D. Crocker College Prep, Mildred Osborne Charter School, Paul Habans Charter School and ReNEW Schaumburg Elementary, which all have D’s, got their first charter contract renewals.

This story was updated after publication to note that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education ratified its committee’s decision not to renew the three schools’ charters. (Dec. 12, 2017)

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...