school bus stock

Three underperforming charter schools in New Orleans are just one step from being forced to close in 2018 after a state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education committee voted unanimously Monday against renewing their charters.

Meanwhile, the Orleans schools superintendent is ready to allow two district-run schools — Benjamin Franklin Elementary Mathematics and Science School and Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School of Literature and Technology — to convert to charters.

That would leave just one traditional, nonchartered school in the city next school year: McDonogh 35 Senior High School.

Sylvanie Williams College Prep, ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy and Dwight D. Eisenhower Academy of Global Studies all have failed to bring their academic rating up to a C, the state's minimum bar when charter schools are up for their second charter renewal. 

+1 
121217 Charter schools not renewed.jpg

Charter schools are publicly funded but privately run, and they have to meet certain academic and financial benchmarks to keep their contracts with the state. 

In the last three years, school performance scores for 65 percent of New Orleans’ public schools have dropped, spurring discussion about whether the city’s charter schools can continue making the kind of gains they had shown since Hurricane Katrina.

The full state education board likely will ratify the committee’s decision to deny the three charter renewals at its meeting Tuesday.

But it will fall to the Orleans Parish School Board to decide whether to close those facilities or to seek new charter groups to take them over.

The three schools in question still fall under the jurisdiction of the state's Recovery School District, but all New Orleans schools in the RSD will be coming back under the local school board next summer. 

The CEO of New Orleans College Prep, the charter management group that runs Sylvanie Williams, sent a letter to parents last month acknowledging that the school's F letter grade meant it would likely have to close at the end of the academic year. District officials have already decided against bringing in another operator to take over the school, given the condition of its building and a glut of other elementary schools.  

The charter group “takes full responsibility for the letter grade and outcomes at Sylvanie Williams over the past few years,” CEO Natalie Kaharick wrote.

ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy slipped from a C to a D this year. ReNEW Schools operates six charter schools. A spokesman said CEO Kevin Guitterrez wasn’t available to comment.

Eisenhower received a C letter grade in 2015. For the past two years, it’s gotten a D. Algiers Charter, which oversees the school, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Algiers charter network oversees five schools, including one, William J. Fischer Accelerated Academy, that has received an F three years in a row. Its charter contract, however, is not up for renewal this year.

Also Monday, Orleans schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. released his recommendations for eight charter applications. He wants to deny three and approve five.

Lewis supports separate charter applications submitted by the principals of two district schools, Benjamin Franklin Elementary, or “Baby Ben,” and Bethune Elementary. That recommendation goes against independent evaluations of the applications.

The two schools’ principals were part of a failed bid last year to convert their schools to charters, along with three other district schools. That effort, which included some administrators who work under Lewis, fell apart after the group received a poor evaluation.

Also among Lewis’ recommendations for approval are one charter for InspireNOLA and two for FirstLine Schools.

Lewis also supports the Center for Resilience’s application for a school called Querencia. Its application was denied in the spring because the school district thought it had failed to describe its recruitment strategy and how its therapeutic program would work within the school.

A committee will meet Tuesday to discuss Lewis’ recommendations. The full board meets Thursday.

The state committee also approved six charter renewals in Orleans Parish. Akili Academy of New Orleans and KIPP New Orleans Leadership Academy both earned C’s this year and a second renewal.

Lawrence D. Crocker College Prep, Mildred Osborne Charter School, Paul Habans Charter School and ReNEW Schaumburg Elementary, all of which have D’s, got their first charter contract renewals.