Friends of King Schools made history Tuesday by becoming the first Recovery School District charter school board to seek to return a campus to the oversight of the Orleans Parish School Board.
The King board opted to leave a system built on choice, the all-charter RSD, by exercising its right to choose a different oversight board.
The vote to return Dr. King Charter School to the School Board was unanimous, said Orleans Parish School Board member Ira Thomas, who was in attendance. Thomas represents the district that includes King.
The transfer still needs to be approved by the state and parish school boards.
As the RSD’s name suggests, it was originally intended to be only a temporary steward of the city’s worst-performing schools, a turnaround agency that took over most of the city’s public schools after Hurricane Katrina but would eventually hand control back to the elected local board once those schools had “recovered” from decades of substandard test scores and high dropout rates. However, until now, none of the eligible schools elected to make the switch.
Tuesday’s vote marked a reversal of the King board’s November decision to keep the school with the RSD for the 2015-16 school year.
Friends of King runs two charter schools: Dr. King Charter School and Joseph A. Craig Charter School.
King was eligible to return to the auspices of the elected local board because it has had two years of school scores above the acceptable limit.
Friends of King will still control the day-to-day operations of each school and set their overall policies, but general oversight will be split between the RSD for Craig and the OPSB for King.
The change of heart was perhaps spurred in part by the RSD’s recent recommendation to renew the school’s charter for only five years, two short of the maximum. That recommendation came after Friends of King was issued a formal notice of breach of contract due to a complaint regarding its compliance with the city’s centralized enrollment system, OneApp, according to nola.com.
The official scolding from the RSD came just weeks after the King board initially voted to stay with the state-run recovery district.
Thomas said he was happy to see a school begin the transition back to Orleans Parish oversight.
“It marks the beginning of the reunification of our school district to a single system,” he said. “I’m hopeful that other schools will follow their lead and continue this process of reuniting our school district.”
Of 36 charter schools eligible this year to return to OPSB auspices because of academic improvement, King is the first to decide to head back. A handful of boards have yet to vote on the matter.
Thomas said he thinks King CEO Doris Hicks’ leadership is second to none, and that the confidence the board has in her made the unanimous vote possible.
The RSD released a statement in which it congratulated the King board, staff and families on the school’s academic improvement, but it also acknowledged the enrollment issue, which was the topic of the notice of breach of contract.
“We expect that under the governance of the Orleans Parish School Board, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School will continue to open its doors to all students of all backgrounds and all needs,” the RSD statement said.
Friends of King has until Jan. 5 to notify the state of its decision. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will consider the request at a mid-January meeting.
Should the OPSB accept the transfer, it would occur on July 1.