Mid-City Charter Schools' Meeting with NACSA

Today the new non-profit entity Mid-City Charter Schools met with four persons hired by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers to review our application. The interview went very well in my opinion. We should hear about their decision February 13th, and then the BESE board votes on February 15th.

To recount briefly what transpired before this point, MCNO applied to charter Dibert Elementary in March of 2006. NACSA granted MCNO provisional approval but in the meantime the Recovery School District opened Dibert. We were told by Robin Jarvis, the president of the RSD that the RSD and NACSA would help us with our application, and we might be able to take over Dibert in January of 2007, but none of that materialized. In October of 2006 NACSA removed the provisional status for MCNO and declined their application to charter a school. We received the rubrics used by the earlier reviewers on October 20th. We then had three weeks to get the first part of our new application together, and just over a month for the entire packet. It all came together in a hurry thanks to many of the residents of Mid-City.
Reading over the rubrics, it seemed that the previous reviewers didn’t understand how a neighborhood organization like MCNO that does so much could run a school. To clarify this we formed a new non-profit, Mid-City Charter Schools, that will have one responsibility: running a great school. The current board of Mid-City Charter Schools consists of myself, Rick LoRusso, Jo Ann LoRusso, Mary Jane Parker, Ken Abney, Ron Andry, Linda Swindle, and Beverly Andry. The second perceived weakness in the first application was that our partnering management company, Education Design Management, lacked experience. So in this application we were very clear that EDM is a new company but the people who make up EDM have over 300 years of experience in education and 100 years in business. In fact, the Education Director for EDM, Jeanne Monte, opened and ran the first charter school in Louisiana. Let me add that the president of EDM, Dianna Dyer, has worked very hard on both applications and I am very grateful to her for this. I very much look forward to working with her if we get the charter. The third perceived weakness in our previous application related to our budget, so now on our board we have Ken Abney who is a CPA and a partner with Ericksen, Krentel & LaPorte, LLP at 4227 Canal Street in Mid-City. In short, the previous application was great and I am still shocked it was turned down, but this one was even better. More important, the reviewers today actually seemed to have read our application.
So what school might we have if we’re granted the charter? We were told that schools currently being run by the RSD were off limits, and they specifically mentioned that we could not apply to charter Dibert. So we chose the three schools that were listed as available in Mid-City. Our first preference was Thurgood Marshall, which will be 100 years old next year. One reviewer today mentioned that Thurgood Marshall is the “darling” of facilities. We’ve heard that at least five groups have applied to charter Thurgood Marshall. Our second choice was Crossman, and our third choice was Fisk-Howard. But Fisk-Howard pretty much looks the same as it did the day the flood waters left, except that now it is missing all of its copper pipes and wires.
Thanks to all of you who have helped thus far with the application. I especially want to thank Keith Bartlett, who is currently the principal at Dibert, and who we would want to be our principal. His presence today at the interview helped immensely in my opinion. I continue to believe that public education will play a major role in deciding the future of New Orleans, and Mid-City. Our charter, if granted, would be for five years. Hopefully in that time the Orleans Parish School Board could get its act together and after five years we could hand control back with confidence that the children who attend public schools in Mid-City are getting a first rate education. They deserve it more than anyone of whom I can think.

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