State officials on Tuesday announced which charter school operators will take over the former Andrew H. Wilson school in Broadmoor and the Livingston campus in New Orleans East, but a lawsuit delayed word on who will take over a third campus, the John McDonogh High School building on Esplanade Avenue.
A group called InspireNOLA, which runs two schools in Algiers, will take over at Wilson. And Collegiate Academies, which has high schools in the Desire area and New Orleans East, will move into the newly built Livingston campus.
Officials with the state-run Recovery School District are hoping the process they used to pick new operators for all three schools will help ease the criticism that past decisions about school takeovers and relocations often aroused. In each case, they invited a community panel to help weigh in on which charter group would get the nod.
Lamont Douglas, one of three Wilson parents who sat on the committee, said the group was deeply involved in finding the right operator, touring other schools and interviewing charter groups. He said, “We’re excited to be partnering with a dedicated administrative staff and family.”
But the public acrimony over the future of John McDonogh continued Tuesday. A Civil District Court judge has temporarily blocked state officials from naming a new charter school operator for the building while a lawsuit proceeds that seeks to prevent state officials from being able to make that call.
Susie Jackson, a member of a community group called the John McDonogh High School Steering Committee, filed a lawsuit against the state last month. It said the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education violated open meetings laws with a vote allowing state officials to seek proposals from charter operators. The lawsuit claimed that the board’s meeting agenda did not actually spell out that the vote would happen.
Judge Sidney Cates has scheduled a hearing on the case for Tuesday.
John McDonogh has been through a tumultuous few years. It reopened as a traditional high school under the RSD after Hurricane Katrina. But the district struggled to lift test scores and graduation rates, and at one point it did not even have plans to renovate the century-old building.
The RSD handed the keys to a charter organization called Future Is Now in 2012, but the group could not turn the school around either and relinquished the building last year.
Urged on by community groups, the Orleans Parish School Board, which lost control of most schools in the city after Katrina, has been fighting to get back control of the building. But a recent attorney general’s opinion argued that only BESE could give the school back.
In the meantime, six different charter groups have applied to run a school in the building.
InspireNola, the group that will manage Wilson, is a relatively new charter operator, at least in name. It runs two relatively high-performing schools in Algiers: Alice Harte Elementary School and Edna Karr High School. Both campuses used to fall under the Algiers Charter School Association before the School Board decided to find a new operator.
Last year, Harte earned an A letter grade from the state, based on the number of students passing state exams. Karr, which used to be a magnet school, had a B.
All of the students already enrolled at Wilson, which has students from pre-K through the eighth grade, will be able to remain at the school after InspireNOLA takes over for the 2015-2016 school year.
The Livingston campus was originally supposed to house Miller-McCoy Academy, an all-boys high school, but with sagging test scores, the school’s board decided to turn in its charter last year.
Collegiate plans to move one of its three existing high schools, Carver Preparatory, into the building this summer. Then, once Carver’s permanent building is completed in the Desire area, the group will start a fourth high school at Livingston beginning with the ninth grade.
All of Collegiate’s existing schools — Sci Academy, Carver Prep and Carver Collegiate Academy — earned a C from the state last year, though they remain among the highest ranked of any open-enrollment schools in the city.