NEW ORLEANS — A charter school board meeting Tuesday to discuss an investigation into malfeasance at Kennedy High School produced more questions than answers and left a room full of parents, students and employees frustrated.
On Friday, New Beginnings Schools Foundation Chairman Raphael Gang announced that five top officials at Kennedy High School had been ousted. In a letter to parents, Gang said the charter board took swift action based on information from an investigation by a hired team of lawyers, and he said the report would be presented at a meeting Tuesday.
“We took action based on initial data that we were given from Adams and Reese, our outside investigation team that revealed malfeasance,” Gang told WWL-TV after Tuesday’s meeting.
But there were few details, and Gang said the report was not ready yet.
“Our investigation into the malfeasance at John F. Kennedy High School is continuing,” he said. “And we are pursuing all the implications of that investigation.”
The investigation started in April after a series of WWL-TV reports of alleged grade-fixing at Kennedy and misconduct by the New Beginnings Schools CEO at the time, Michelle Blouin-Williams.
“The path forward is about telling what we know, when we know, as soon as we know it,” Gang said.
But more than 30 members of the Kennedy community came to Tuesday’s board hearing expecting to hear more. Among those who showed up was the fired Kennedy principal, Brian Gibson, who said he still doesn’t know what he did wrong.
“I don’t think it’s all the way fair when you group people without being specific to them,” he said, addressing the board during a public comment period. “And I don’t think it’s fair that you made a decision without at least talking to us.”
Also in the dark is Runell King, the whistleblower who was fired in March after alleging Fs were changed to Ds improperly at Kennedy. His attorney, Dorothy Tarver, said they assume, because of last week’s firings, that the investigation must have backed up King’s initial allegations, but the board won’t tell them.
“Will he be reinstated with backpay? We really don’t know,” she said. “We have had no other communication with the board.”
And then there are the students and parents who came to the meeting, including Allean Gryson, who said her granddaughter is waiting on her transcript for college.
“I understand that this is an investigation, but when you have a student that did all of what she’s supposed to do, maintained her grade-point average, nothing below a 3.0,” Gryson said. “And this is holding her up.”
Gang said he took action last week to remove Gang and the other Kennedy leadership team members in order to resolve pending issues with students’ grades.
King had referred to “repeat offenders” among the Kennedy leadership because Gibson and Kennedy assistant principal Taisha Payne had been suspended during a previous cheating investigation at Landry-Walker High School.
But Gibson told WWL-TV Tuesday that he was reinstated as assistant principal at Landry-Walker after that investigation and kept working there for years before leaving voluntarily and taking the principal job at Kennedy, his alma mater.