East Baton Rouge Parish Schools Superintendent Warren Drake speaks during a school board swearing in ceremony, Tuesday, January 8, 2019, at McKinley Middle Magnet in Baton Rouge, La.

It is with great concern that I share the information our board and school family was surprised with at the last East Baton Rouge Parish School Board meeting. They are contemplating denying renewal of our charter for South Baton Rouge Charter Academy. This is so concerning for many reasons. During site visits, staff gave no indication that this was even a consideration. South Baton Rouge Charter was the only school to improve a letter grade when everyone else either maintained or dropped a grade. This was during a time period when testing criteria became more rigorous. It was also the time when our school experienced significant growth in our English as a Second Language (ESL) student population — which now constitutes 25.2 percent of our entire school. Our growth earned a “B” grade, which is a tremendous accomplishment for an inner-city school serving some of our most at-risk students.

Our projections for the coming year are even more impressive. Most troubling, though, is the fact that East Baton Rouge Parish does not have a published policy for charter renewals, and its website only references BESE policy, by which our school would be granted a three-year renewal. How could the school board even consider closing a school that is on an upward trajectory? How could this possibly be about the children when the board heard one impassioned plea after another from parents after they learned that their children may be returned to the same school from which they left for important reasons in the first place?

Parents are seeing growth in their children for the first time in their school careers. They are in an environment that fosters positive relationships instead of bullying. They are in a school where they finally feel like they are part of a family instead of part of the system. Our leadership team has improved greatly, and every marker we are able to measure shows growth. I urge our board members to put our children first and avoid making decisions based on arbitrary metrics that make no sense for our school or our students.

John Pierre

South Louisiana Charter Foundation Board President

Baton Rouge