The Orleans Parish School Board met in closed session Thursday to consider suing the Recovery School District to try to prevent it from reopening shuttered schools, particularly John McDonogh and Sarah T. Reed high schools.
No vote was taken when the board returned to public session, and the issue will go before the board again Tuesday.
The School Board is opposed in principle to the RSD opening new schools in the city — a position the board made known through a resolution passed in October.
Board members contend that opening new schools is exclusively within their purview. They say the RSD was established to take over and improve failing schools, a process that board members concede includes choosing new operators for existing schools, but not starting new programs in completely closed schools.
Last year, the RSD closed Reed and John McDonogh high schools. Now, it is soliciting applications for new operators for each.
The OPSB requested control of John McDonogh from the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education this summer. BESE requested an attorney general’s opinion on whether it had the authority to return the school and helped begin a cooperative process between the two districts to get the high school running again. But before the state board received an answer, it gave the RSD complete control over the process.
On Oct. 30, the RSD announced it was soliciting applications for a new operator for Reed. It did the same for John McDonogh in November.
A School Board agenda for Thursday’s meeting said the board would meet in executive session to discuss potential litigation over the RSD’s requests for applications “for new charter schools to replace closed schools.”
On Monday, RSD administrators held private meetings with Einstein Charter School and Collegiate Academies leaders about their plans for Reed. They’re the only two remaining applicants after four schools initially expressed interest in operating the eastern New Orleans high school for 2016-17.
As outlined in the RSD’s process, a December meeting was to take place in which interested operators could present their plans for Reed to the community.
However, Monday’s meeting was not open to the public even though representatives from several community groups were allowed in. RSD Deputy Superintendent Dana Peterson said those organizations are part of an ongoing working group.
“It wouldn’t have been fair to them to make those (presentations) in front of media when they hadn’t been prepared for that,” Peterson said.
Collegiate Academies provided The Lens with its presentation upon request. Einstein leaders provided a copy of their presentation as well.
The community is being included even though the RSD has the authority to locate schools without extensive community involvement, Peterson said.
“This is a much more inclusive way in which we’re coming to a decision on a school site,” Peterson said.
On Monday, the RSD announced that nine organizations have expressed interest in operating John McDonogh High School when it reopens: KIPP New Orleans Schools, the Orleans Parish School Board, Morris Jeff Community School, Bricolage Academy, the Linda School, InspireNOLA, Encore Academy, Democracy Prep Louisiana Charter School and Firstline Schools.
The RSD plans to notify groups interested in McDonogh of their standing by Jan. 31 and groups interested in Reed in February.