The Jefferson Parish Council on Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution opposing any “detrimental actions” the parish School Board might take against the Kenner Discovery charter school.
The resolution, proposed by Councilmen Ben Zahn and Mark Spears, came in response to phone calls that Head of School Patty Glaser said she received Tuesday night warning that some School Board members may try to block the school’s expansion and revoke its charter at a board meeting Thursday night.
Board member Marion “Coach” Bonura, however, said in a phone interview later in the day that he hadn’t heard of any such plans.
He said system administrators and attorneys are meeting with members of a task force created after the school system emerged from federal oversight in 2011 to see whether schools are meeting their targets with regard to school desegregation.
“They’re meeting to make sure our numbers are in order,” Bonura said. “I don’t know where they (Kenner Discovery) fall there, but ... we were told to make sure we have the numbers that are prescribed by the law. If they feel their numbers aren’t there, that may be why they’re complaining.”
Zahn, whose district includes Kenner Discovery, asked Glaser at the council meeting about the achievements and demographic makeup of the school, which has an A rating from the state.
Glaser said Kenner Discovery is a high-demand school that has more than 1,000 students on a waiting list. Some 1,300 students applied for 200 seats available for next year.
The school uses a weighted lottery system that gives at-risk students preference, and the percentage of at-risk students has gone from 60 percent in 2014-15 to a projected 70 percent next year, and that number could end up as high as 73 percent, she said.
Asked about the school’s minority enrollment, which is related to the settlement of the desegregation suit, Glaser said the percentage of African-American students is about 25 percent this year and is projected to be 32.5 percent next year, slightly below the required 33 percent.
Glaser said 51 percent of the school’s students are white, 26 percent are black, 16 percent are Hispanic, 5 percent are Asian and the rest are “other.”
Spears said if all the non-white student percentages are totaled, the school is in fact quite diverse.
Glaser, Zahn and Spears all agreed that without Kenner Discovery, its 715 students wouldn’t have an academically successful school nearby to attend.
Bonura said he didn’t understand why the school would request such a resolution from the council.
“The Parish Council doesn’t have anything to do with the School Board,” he said. “I don’t know anything about us coming out with anything stopping an expansion.”
In other business, the council voted to rehired Joshua Nemzoff, the outside consultant who helped secure a deal to lease a parish-owned hospital in Marrero to a private operator last year.
Though Nemzoff has butted heads with some Parish Council members who balked at the fees he charged the parish in the past, he was rehired without comment Wednesday.
He will be guaranteed $275,000 for seven months of work, helping the parish complete the nearly $600 million deal to lease West Jefferson Medical Center to LCMC Health.
The council also voted unanimously to ask the administration to research and write a policy requiring background checks for people interested in volunteering to coach sports at public playgrounds.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.