NEW ORLEANS — The New Beginnings Schools Foundation voted unanimously Thursday to surrender the charters for John F. Kennedy High School and Pierre A Capdau Charter School after the 2019-2020 school year.
The decision came after an internal investigation spurred by WWL-TV reports on grade fixing at Kennedy. The scandal has also been the subject of numerous reports by The Lens and The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate.
“Ultimately, returning the charter is what is best for our students to thrive academically and for our families to access the best options for their children,” the NBSF board said in a written statement. “As a system of charter schools, it is our responsibility to make such decisions in the interest of student learning. This is accountability at work.”
Eyewitness Investigator David Hammer broke the story in March after a whistleblower, former New Beginnings data manager Runell King, went to The Lens and WWL-TV with evidence that F's were changed to D's and dozens of other grades issued by a teacher who left the school were later inflated without her knowledge.
But New Beginnings dismissed his allegations fired him, at least in part for making the allegations. At the time, he told WWL-TV that he wanted to prevent students from being hurt.
Outside lawyers hired by NBSF to investigate the various allegations found additional instances of grade changes involving Kennedy’s Class of 2019. Those separate allegations, not related to those raised by King, led NBSF to fire five school leaders at Kennedy, including the principal and two assistant principals.
As of now, 87 of 177 seniors still haven't met graduation standards due to the grade irregularities.
“What I wanted to prevent is, the students being told in May, 'You're not going to graduate,’” King said in March.
The schools will remain open for the 2019-20 school year, under new leadership. Five top officials were fired after the investigation was complete.
According to the NBSF School Board, all returning students at Kennedy High School will have an individual transcript review to ensure there are on track to graduate.
“We are shocked and saddened by what we have learned in the past few months,” the NBSF statement said. “Families put their trust into the leaders, educators, and board at New Beginnings Schools Foundation. We do not take that responsibility lightly.”
The Orleans Parish School Board, now NOLA Public Schools, released a statement saying that it will work to find a new charter operator to manage the schools starting in the 2020-2021 school year.
“Given what transpired at JFK this past spring, revocation was being considered,” Superintendent Dr. Henderson Lewis Jr. said. “However, at this time, I believe this decision by the NBSF Board is appropriate and what is best for students.”