Ray Charles sang a song with lyrics that said “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” Sometimes I feel like our charter school association is in that mode. We’ve had some bad luck.
In February 2006, we applied for three schools; all of them were among the lowest achieving schools in the New Orleans Public Schools district pre-Katrina. The schools were A.P. Tureaud, Wicker, and Craig. We were awarded all three schools, but Craig school was opened by the Recovery School District before we could take possession of the building. The RSD Superintendent did not want to turn the school over to our group because she felt we were too unstable as a Board and as a partner with our educational management organization (EMO), which will go unnamed. Instead she substituted McDonogh 42. We agreed to the substitution only to learn two weeks later that McDonogh 42 was termite-infested. The school could not be opened.
To make matters worse, we had our charter revoked by the State Department of Education because of irreconcilable differences with our EMO. This was in August 2006, three weeks before schools were set to open. Our group had already selected principals, many teachers, and staff. We had contracts lined up and registration of students was underway. Fortunately, the RSD re-hired most of the staff we had put in place. It was a bittersweet day when former Governor Kathleen Blanco visited Tureaud School on the first day RSD started operations, proclaiming it a model school for the district.
We reapplied for our charter in December 2006, this time asking for only one school, McDonogh 42. We did not come armed with an out-of-state, for-profit educational management organization this time. We were awarded the school in February 2007 and RSD opened it the next day for about 300 students who had been wait listed for up to six weeks. There was no school with room for them. Would it be possible for RSD to tell us once again to pick some other school? This time luck was with us and we started up on August 13, 2007. It has not been easy because our admittedly small board has had to do all of the work ourselves. You don’t have to ask how hard it could be. I’ve been answering that for months.
In September of 2007, we applied for two more schools. Once again, we asked for A.P. Tureaud and Craig. Yesterday, it was announced that Craig School was mold-contaminated. The students are being bussed to a modular campus in East New Orleans. I learned the news when the Director of Charter Schools called to request the number of vacant seats we had that could be offered to Treme neighborhood parents who did not want their children bussed far from their homes. The sad thing is there is no telling when, if ever, the school will be available for use.
Read the link on the story and I’ll bet you’ll agree that Ray Charles was singing the TCSA blues.
The opinions expressed in Starting Over: A Post-Katrina Education are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.