Sojourner Truth Academy, a service-based charter high school, will close at the end of this school year based on a vote by its governing board Tuesday evening that reflects the reality of the program’s insufficient performance gains, reports Andrew Vanacore of The Times-Picayune. The school has faced a series of significant challenges since before school even started this year. Its founder, Channa Mae Cook, left last year, and one of new superintendent’s Reginald Flenory’s first tasks was keeping the program in its building on Freret Street after the 11th-hour discovery that Orleans Parish School Board had decided not to continue its lease for the Our Lady of Lourdes building with the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Audubon Charter School was offered the building, but that school’s board turned the campus down for logistical reasons. With a one-year extension negotiated by the Recovery School District, the building was settled, and the school board and staff turned their attention back to the school’s flagging performance scores, which fell from 53.5 in 2010 to 48.7 in 2011, well below the score of 75 below which the state will deem a school “failing” next year.
Walter L. Cohen High School is slated to be gradually taken over by NOLA College Prep over the next two years, according to an RSD announcement that also casts the challenges faced by Sojourner Truth Academy this year into sharp relief.
With optimism that Sojourner Truth Academy will be able to remain at their current Freret Street campus for another year, students returned to class last week and school officials turned their attention on their most serious challenge for the year: reversing an increasingly perilous erosion in test scores. Last month, Sojourner Truth discovered that the Orleans Parish School Board wanted out of the lease for the Our Lady of Lourdes classroom building with the Archdiocese of New Orleans, and that the school’s only hope for remaining there was the Recovery School District signing an extension on the lease with the Archdiocese for another year. At Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Sojourner Truth board, member Victoria Johnson asked if a lease had been secured yet. “My answer to that is, we’re here,” answered board chair Bob Burvant, noting that it had been about 10 days since his last conversation with the RSD. “Maybe no news is good news.”
Many Audubon Charter School parents and teachers see the St. James Major campus in Gentilly as an attractive option for a temporary campus after Hynes Charter School moves out of it during the winter break, they told school officials after hearing about four new options at a Thursday afternoon meeting. Before the school can begin a two-year renovation of its Broadway campus, it must find an interim location for the students who are already there, and the urgency of the search has increased since a site in the Lower Garden District was deemed unacceptable earlier this summer. The Orleans Parish School Board has asked Audubon to have an answer by Aug. 1, little more than a week away.
The Sojourner Truth Academy community was stunned this week to learn that the school may not be returning to its current building on Freret Street next year, and on Thursday discovered its fate is entangled with a post-Katrina realignment of federal education money between the state and Orleans Parish. The charter high school spent the past year in the Our Lady of Lourdes building owned by the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Though the school’s charter is with the Recovery School District, the Orleans Parish School Board held the lease with the archdiocese under a post-Katrina federal mandate to provide classroom space for the RSD. Now, Orleans Parish wants out of that equation, said OPSB Superintendent Darryl Kilbert on Thursday. “We are no longer interested in being a third party,” Kilbert said to room packed with Sojourner Truth supporters during the school board’s property committee meeting.
Eleanor McMain High School, the International School of Louisiana (at both campuses), James Weldon Johnson Elementary, KIPP Believe College Prep and Central City, Lafayette Academy and Sojourner Truth are all among 32 area schools to receive salad bars donated by the United Fresh Produce Association, according to Andrew Vanacore of The Times-Picayune.
Uptown schools vary widely in both the quality of their instruction and their openness to the public, according to a pair of reports released this week. Schools run by the Recovery School District in Baton Rouge – originally designed to take over the state’s worst-performing schools, and the governing body of many New Orleans schools since Hurricane Katrina – still show far worse results than those run locally in Orleans Parish, according to results released by the state Department of Education and compiled for the New Orleans area by the Times-Picayune. Uptown schools run directly by the Recovery School District, such as Walter Cohen High School, and even some of its charters, such as the Sojourner Truth Academy, were rated “academically unacceptable.” Uptown New Orleans is also home to some of the best schools in the city, the results show. Lusher charter schools’ five-star rating marks it as among the absolute highest-scoring in the state.