Class Dismissed: The final year in a closing school

On a Friday afternoon in January, a few parents and two ministers gathered at Medard Nelson Charter School at the corner of St. Bernard Avenue and Gentilly Boulevard hoping there was something they could do to keep the school open past May. They were meeting with State Rep. Joe Bouie, a well-known critic of New Orleans’ use of charter schools.

Somewhat unexpectedly, Michelle Blouin-Williams walked into the Parent Teacher Organization meeting, which was being held in Nelson’s library. She is the CEO of the New Beginnings Schools Foundation, a nonprofit that operates Nelson and two other schools.

“I’m the CEO of all the schools,” she said. “So I’m still the CEO of the other schools.”

Her answer seemed to take Davis by surprise. As students and teachers were searching for new schools and new jobs, the charter management group’s central office staff will likely remain largely intact. It will still operate two other schools.

State reviewing controversial wastewater treatment technique

A site south of Ponchatoula is dead center in a lengthy debate over a controversial wastewater treatment technique. And the city of Hammond, though it lies well seven miles to the north, is deeply involved in that debate, thanks to a treatment system that discharges the city’s wastewater into protected marsh.

On either side of the debate are residents and stakeholders who each say they have science on their side. And watching from Baton Rouge are two state agencies responsible for permitting Hammond’s so-called “wastewater assimilation” operation. Both are reviewing the city’s effort to build and maintain a wastewater pipeline — which runs from Hammond to the site along the marsh — and its struggles to keep its discharge within safe, legal limits.

The Lens has confirmed that the agencies — the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Natural Resources — are investigating Hammond’s wastewater assimilation system after several years of shortcomings in treating the water that it discharges at the edge of the Joyce Wildlife Management Area.

City Planning Commission recommends short-term rental changes

The New Orleans City Planning Commission on Tuesday approved the language for a much stricter regulatory regime for short term rentals. The amendments now go to the City Council for a final decision.

The recommendations from the commission were more restrictive than the ones proposed by Councilwoman Kristin Palmer late last year. Like Palmer’s version, whole-home rentals in residential neighborhoods would be limited to homeowners with homestead exemptions. But while Palmer’s proposal allows those homeowners to rent up to three whole units on their property in any residential district, the commission’s staff recommendations only allow for one in most residential neighborhoods.

Behind The Lens episode 23: ‘When they told the parents about this, it was already done’

Education reporter Marta Jewson talks about her series on school closures in New Orleans. Michael Isaac Stein on the latest news on short-term rentals. And host and producer Tom Wright talks to Jed Horne about The Lens’ opinion section.

Cannizzaro appeals ruling allowing fake subpoena suit to go forward

The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office is appealingruling by a federal judge last month allowing a federal civil rights case over prosecutors’ use of fake subpoenas and practice of seeking arrest warrants against crime victims and witnesses.

Attorneys representing Cannizzaro and 11 assistant district attorneys named in the suit on Tuesday filed a notice in federal court that they will appeal the ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

BGR comes out against proposed city elderly services tax

A new report by the Bureau of Governmental Research urges New Orleans residents to vote against a new property tax that would raise money for services and programs for the elderly.

While the report, released Tuesday, agrees that there is a need for greater funding for elderly care, it argues that the City Council didn’t do enough legwork to justify a dedicated property tax increase. It notes that the Council has yet to lay out how the money would be spent or even define who is included under the banner of “elderly citizen.”

“The proposition lacks the support of a comprehensive, prioritized assessment of the elderly’s needs and a clear plan to direct tax funding to high-priority needs,” the report says. “Without a more complete picture of the City Council’s intent, BGR cannot determine whether the tax is appropriately sized.”

Jailing victims or healing them: a tale of two very different responses to abuse

Columnist Orrisa Arend tackles material-witness warrants:

“Victims of domestic violence and/or sexual assault can get treated so differently in New Orleans it makes my head spin. How’s this for polar opposites: some crime victims are offered sensitive care and confidential counseling supervised by medical professionals. A few blocks farther up Tulane Avenue, others — mind you, we’re talking victims not perpetrators — have been thrown in jail and held on whopping bonds without a lawyer.

How can this be?

The ugly maltreatment of sex crime and domestic violence victims has occurred at the hands of District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro if he thought you might not agree to cooperate as a witness against the defendant charged with the crime. A couple of years ago, he got caught using “fake subpoenas” to coerce such testimony — subpoenas issued by his office but not authorized, as required, by a judge.”

Singleton charter violated special education law again, school district says

The Orleans Parish school district has issued its most severe warning to James M. Singleton Charter School for the third time this school year for again violating federal and state special education law, officials say.

District officials cited “systematic and student-specific non-compliance” when it came to providing special education services. The Central City charter school is overseen by the nonprofit Dryades YMCA board, a unique set-up for a New Orleans school.

The district’s Senior Equity and Accountability Officer Kelli Peterson and her team began their inquiry after a parent contacted the district in mid-January with concerns about a student not receiving services in their Individual Education Program (IEP). An IEP is a contract between the school and parent that outlines special education services.

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...