One year after a graduation scandal rocked John F. Kennedy High School, its independent nonprofit operator, the New Beginnings Schools Foundation, quietly and succinctly voted in a pandemic-allowed virtual meeting to dissolve the organization.
Kennedy and the charter group’s other school, Pierre A. Capdau Charter School, will remain open under new charter operators.
The Thursday night vote was a long time coming. As mounting evidence grew in the graduation scandal last summer, the nonprofit decided to surrender its contracts for Kennedy and Capdau when this school year ended. Investigations had revealed that half of the graduating class hadn’t been eligible for a diploma — something the students learned a month after graduation.
Kennedy students hadn’t been offered proper courses. They were enrolled in classes without proper supervision — which meant they didn’t count for credit. And while some investigations found the initial allegation of improper grade changes uncredible or inconclusive, new issues arose during the course of those investigations, including a second grade altering scheme.
The CEO resigned and five administrators were dismissed last spring. One sued the organization last week.
Failed Kennedy students spent the summer making up credits or had to re-enroll for a second senior year. The NOLA Public Schools district superintendent called for a criminal investigation and ordered a review of high school student records citywide.
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the school hosted individual mini-ceremonies for graduating seniors and up to six family members.
On Thursday, the board met virtually to dissolve the organization.
After a few updates and a brief executive session, New Beginnings’ board chairman Raphael Gang reconvened the group for the final agenda items.
“We’re moving into our new business, which is in some ways our last business,” Gang said.
The organization, founded in April 2004, was the first to run a Recovery School District charter in New Orleans’ takeover and education reform era. It assumed control of Pierre A. Capdau School in 2004, one year before Hurricane Katrina helped facilitate the city’s transformation to the first major American city with no traditional schools.
The two resolutions on Thursday, to dissolve the nonprofit and appoint Gang as its liquidator on a pro bono basis, both passed unanimously.
A few New Beginnings staff members will stay on to transfer student records and public records, as will the charter group’s lawyer Michelle Craig. Financial management contractor EdOps will continue doing finances and law firm Adams and Reese was hired to dissolve the organization for $35,000. Carr, Riggs and Ingram will perform the group’s final audit.
The charter group is currently facing several lawsuits, a few of which relate directly to the graduation scandal.
On June 30, the group’s contract for both schools will expire. Kennedy will transfer to KIPP and Capdau will go to InspireNOLA.