NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The discussion over whether to relinquish control of the five remaining public schools in New Orleans to non-profit charter school companies inspired hundreds to attend Tuesday's meeting in McDonough 25's auditorium.
The only five public schools left in the Orleans Parish include two high schools, McDonough 35 and McMain High School; and three elementary schools, Benjamin Franklin Elementary, Bethune and Mahalia Jackson.
Charter company INSPIRE NOLA, which runs Edna Karr High School, applied to take over the two high schools, and the charter company EXCEED, which is not in charge of any school, applied to take over all five.
"Our leadership, our teachers are working extremely hard to make our sure our youth are prepared and educated every single day, not just from the aspect of academics, but from the aspects of the social and emotional skills of what we need to do in our city," Inspire NOLA CEO Jamar McKneely told the crowd and board members.
"Our theory of change is simple: Good schools will elevate to their historically great status when we provide resources and accountability structures in a more nimble and efficient manner," EXCEED CEO Nicolette London said.
Some parents and local residents met this conversion with excitement.
"I stand behind Inspire NOLA not because of the fact they are a good charter system, but mainly my daughter is graduate of Edna Karr Senior High School who is now getting ready to graduate from Dillard university who made the 21-plus ACT club," resident Asia Chapmann said.
"Being part of a network of schools will provide the students with more possibilities and will provide school leaders with more support. Please approve the charter for EXCEED network schools," McDonough 35 PTO representative Christen Cole said.
But several others met the idea with doubt and refusal.
"I appreciate all the charter management groups that said how well they are doing, but once we lose our voice in this system, then there is no more going forward academically," Louis Calhoun said.
"A completely charter school system is not choice at all. We need public schools. We need y'all to do your jobs and stop talking about being for these kids and actually being for these kids, and not get re-elected because like my man said earlier we will vote you out," parent Lowen Thomas said.
Before school board members vote, a consulting company, Thibodeaux & Walden, was hired to review EXCEED because it is a new charter school system.
The consulting firm suggested EXCEED be denied the charter for any schools, saying the company did not meet any of the four standards necessary.
School Board Superintendent Henderson Lewis will take Thibodeaux & Walden's review and other feedback into his own recommendation to the board on April 20.
"I'm paying very close to my recommendation on how it aligns to our guiding principles of higher standards and continued progress in empowering schools and their community," Lewis said.
The board will vote on the future of the schools on May 14. Even if these schools do convert to charters, the Orleans Parish School System is still scheduled to take back all charter and Recovery School District schools next year.