Dibert Charter Denied & Future Plans

Read MCNO’s Letter to Governor Blanco outlining our frustrations in trying to charter a neighborhood school (October 14, 2006)
One of the most important aspects to the recovery of New Orleans involves the opening and maintenance of excellent public schools. MCNO has been working since January of 2006 to charter Dibert Elementary, as you know from our conversations in the neighborhood and previous posts (1, 2, 3). On September 18th, 2006, we learned that our charter application was denied. No reason was given. We have spent the past month trying to get answers about why our application was turned down so we could better understand and move forward.
Finally, on October 20th, we received a packet from the Louisiana Department of Education containing the rubrics used by evaluators from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). Keep in mind that the Recovery School District (RSD) was formed in 2003 to take over academically unacceptible schools, and their power expanded tremendously after Hurricane Katrina during a special legislative session in November of 2005. The RSD pledged to collaborate with communities and that their process would be transparent and that they would be accountible. Sadly, none of these things have happened. In fact, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), and the RSD outsourced their authority and the decision making process regarding the awarding of charter schools to NACSA, a Chicago based organization. Our elected officials on BESE adjudicated all responsibility and simply rubber stamped whatever NACSA decides. Moreover, it was clear during the interview process that many reviewers for NACSA had never read our application.
NACSA’s explanations about our charter denial lists concerns that the management company we partnered with, Education Design Management, was inexperienced. While it is true that EDM as an entity has never chartered a school, the individuals who formed EDM and work for the company have an incredible amount of experience in chartering schools. Some of the other reasons provided by NACSA again demonstrate their lack of competence in making these decisions. For example, their first point states that “Board membership has not been stable since original application, notably Amy Lafont has moved from MCNO board to EDM employee roster to MCNO trustee board.” Sadly, it seems NACSA confused Natalie Lafont from the MCNO board with Amy Lafont, even with their very different first names written on all documents in the application. They also condemn us for not saying things during the interview process that we were not asked to say. It seems we were doomed to failure throughout the process, as the charters were granted not to neighborhood groups, but instead to national groups with ties to NACSA.
There is a November 1 application for eligibility deadline for chartering schools to open in the Fall of 2007, with the entire application due December 1. It would be impossible for MCNO to submit a new application in that time, as we are now just receiving NACSA’s feedback. We are submitting a letter asking BESE and the RSD to extend the deadline to a reasonable date, and we are also asking them to please not grant charters for schools in Mid-City to national organizations without in-depth consulations with MCNO. We still very much want to have a say in how our schools are run, and to ensure that children in Mid-City receive nothing short of a first-rate education. We are currently exploring our options to move forward, and continue to envision a future with excellent public schools.

← Blog