Mary D. Coghill School in Gentilly Woods.

The NOLA Public Schools district has identified a charter operator for what is now its only remaining traditional, direct-run school. 

Mary D. Coghill Charter School, located in Gentilly Woods, lost its charter and went under direct control of the district in July. Other than Coghill, all schools in the 45,000-student district are run by semi-autonomous nonprofit groups, either through a charter or some other type of contract. But the arrangement with Coghill will be temporary, lasting only this school year. On Wednesday, the district announced that the nonprofit that runs Edward Hynes Charter School will take over Coghill in the 2021-22 school year.

Coghill’s former charter operator, the Better Choice Foundation, was a community run nonprofit that opened the charter school in 2013. In its final years, the school struggled with both academics — it was rated an F in 2019, down from a D in 2018 and 2017 and a C in 2016 — and governance problems. Last year, one board member resigned in the midst of increased scrutiny of the board’s financial management. Two others were recently charged with nepotism for employing a family member at the school while they served on the board. 

Last December, NOLA Public Schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. decided not to renew the Better Choice Foundation’s contract to run Coghill after it received a failing state rating and after warnings for violating special education and financial issues.

The nonprofit then sued the district, claiming Lewis was subverting the Orleans Parish School Board, which had failed to override his recommendation for nonrenewal by one vote. The suit was dismissed at the end of June. The district is running Coghill directly this school year.

When Lewis was making the decision to end Coghill’s contract, some of the school’s board members and educators pleaded with the district for help and asked why it had not intervened sooner. Its closure, along with several other charter closures over the years, spurred the district to create what it’s workshopping as an “Innovation Zone” to help charter schools, prevent closures and provide stability.

Hynes is an A-rated school and has routinely been one of the most sought after schools in the city, even drawing some families to Lakeview hoping to take advantage of priority enrollment for students who live nearby.

Hynes opened a second campus with the University of New Orleans last year. Coghill will be its third campus. 

Hynes spokeswoman Heather Harper said the school’s sibling preference for applicants is site-specific, and wouldn’t apply to Coghill from the other sites.

All current Coghill students will be able to continue when Hynes takes over the school, district spokeswoman Dominique Ellis Falcon said.

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...