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Should Charters Go Back to the District? The Things We Should Be Considering

As I prepared to participate on a parent panel for family engagement hosted by the National League of Cities, I came across an article, “Why should New Orleans charter schools return to the Orleans Parish School District?” Given that two of my children attend charter schools that are now under the Orleans Parish School District (Edna Karr and Andrew H. Wilson) and one of my sons attends KIPP Renaissance, a school contemplating the move, I was intrigued to read what Andre Perry’s thoughts were on the matter.

After reading the article, I knew that I had to spring into action. I had to provide a parent’s perspective to the question of whether New Orleans charter schools should return to the Orleans Parish School District.

Perry says, “Ultimately putting a school district back together again will be more instructive for the rest of the country than learning how New Orleans broke one up.” Does Dr. Perry believe that a valid reason for moving schools between governing bodies is to act as an instructional tool for the rest of the country? I wonder if he knows that there are students that attend those schools whose futures depend on these actions. I also would be interested in knowing if he thinks that learning about how “New Orleans broke one up” is a matter that should be taken lightly. Many children, families, neighborhoods and communities were affected by those actions and the script shouldn’t be read around the country. I think he is off base with this idea; the New Orleans Public School system is not a sideshow exhibit.

It is also wrong that he doesn’t mention parents, guardians or community support and engagement when making any of these crucial moves between RSD and OPSB.

I believe the only reason a school governing body should be in existence is to serve students and their families—if it is lacking in that area, then it is failing. Changing the governing body of charter schools that serve some of the most at risk students in our city may not be the best way to conduct experiments on educating students. The notion of aspiring to be the highest performing school district in the nation is nice and the expectations are great, but the nurturing of our most precious resources shouldn’t fall victim to the chase of an immoderate dream.

 

As a parent, I would like to offer the governing bodies of New Orleans public schools some useful advice when deciding whether the Orleans Parish School District should control charter schools.

  • The Recovery School District, Orleans Parish School Board and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education should clearly identify themselves to students and parents, including which schools they are operating, which schools have transferred and what schools are slated to transfer.
  • Many times these potential governing bodies do not communicate clearly with the students and families that they serve.
  • Vital meetings are often held during school hours which limits the number of parents, guardians and community stakeholders who can attend. This practice should be amended to better suit parents, guardians and community.

 

These suggestions are just a few thoughts that are brought up when I engage the families of New Orleans charter schools. I also have strong feelings about these moves and the implementation of the process. I believe that RSD should not relinquish control if the movement is not seamless and won’t affect students’ daily academic lives. The communication not only between these two governing bodies but also to families should be transparent throughout the process. The Orleans Parish School District should initiate a campaign inviting parents to see the changes that have been made and what the future holds for students and families of district schools. The Orleans Parish School District should agree to perform regulatory duties that assist schools in daily operations but also give autonomy to the charter management organization. Administrators and educators at charter schools should also have the freedom to make critical academic choices for the betterment of their student body. The RSD and the Orleans Parish School District should commit to actively communicate and collaborate in working through the flaws of the ONEAPP system in order to ensure the best outcomes for families.

 
I hope these agencies combine their talent and resources in producing the best outcomes for the families and children of New Orleans.

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