Potential shift to charter for John McDonogh High worries some

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by Meg Farris / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on October 5, 2010 at 6:21 PM

NEW ORLEANS -- There is disagreement over the future of a New Orleans high school. Even though no one has put in an application to the state to change John McDonogh to a charter school, some in the community are already against it.

It is the latest public opinion to hit the neutral ground. Signs around Broad Street and St. Bernard Avenue, up to Esplanade Avenue, are stating that someone doesn't want John McDonogh High to change from a Recovery School District school to a Charter school.

Paul Vallas is the superintendent of the RSD. He said he is for John McDonogh High becoming Charter, and so are people he talks to in the community, as well as some alumni.

"I'm for creating charters that are based on high performing models like Sci Academy (New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy). Sci Academy is one of our charters and incidentally it's one of the charter models being considered for 'John Mac.' Sci Academy has been operating for what, three years now? It is now the highest performing general enrollment high school in New Orleans," said Vallas.

That's the school he says that tripled its test scores and just got a $1 million award from Oprah Winfrey. Vallas said while John McDonogh students are performing better, he is all for anything that pushes the students to a higher standard.

"The school has improved academically. Its graduation rates have risen, but the school needs to do much better. They are still not meeting the assessment index scores that they need to really qualify as a school that is meeting state standards," Vallas said.

But some educators are concerned. They told us off camera that they don't believe that in the real world, underachieving students would have the choice and opportunity to get into a high achieving charter school.

"I'm against it. Charter schools, they don't take emotional, disturbed kids. They put them out. If this school becomes a charter, where would those kids go?" asks an alumna of John McDonogh who also volunteers at the school, but did not want to be identified. She said she works with students who transferred from charter schools because they have emotional, behavioral, or academic problems.

But Vallas disagrees, saying that if John McDonogh went charter, it would be open enrollment.

"Sci Academy is open enrollment. All of the charters in the RSD are open enrollment. None of our schools are select enrollment. They have to take all the kids. They can't select enroll the kids. They can't kick the kids out. They basically have to educate the kids that are currently being educated in the school," said Vallas.

For now it is unclear who is putting up the signs. No one answers the phone number given. The message doesn't identify who it is, and it's unlisted on Reverse Phone Number Lookup.

But one alumnus, parent and volunteer wants what's best for the students.

"I want to hear from both sides, that's always the best way to go," said Craig Jenkins, a John McDonogh parent, volunteer and alumnus.

 

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