NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans public school district appears to be backing off its announced plans to close James Singleton Charter School ahead of the 2021-22 school year, making it likely the school will remain at the Dryades YMCA in Central City, at least in the short-term.
Schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis announced plans to yank the charter for the school in June, starting a month-long clock for the Orleans Parish School Board to consider revoking the Dryades YMCA’s charter for running Singleton. The district cited background checks allegedly falsified by the Dryades Y’s longtime chief financial officer and questions about $1.1 million the YMCA reportedly owed back to the school.
The Dryades YMCA promised a forensic accounting of those expenses more than a month ago but has not responded to requests for the financial report.
The OPSB was expected to vote on final revocation of the Y’s charter at Thursday’s regularly scheduled July board meeting. But the district was chastened by Orleans Civil District Judge Jennifer Medley early in July for failing to take action to revoke the charter earlier, given that school district officials raised concerns about the background checks in November 2020 and knew about balances owed by the YMCA to the school when the OPSB renewed the Y’s charter in 2018.
Medley issued a temporary restraining order July 2 forcing NOLA Public Schools to stop the process of placing Singleton students in other schools and requiring the district to enter mediation with the Dryades YMCA, which holds the current charter to run Singleton for one more year.
“Given the ongoing mediation process, there will not be any action taken during the July 29, 2021 board meeting related to any potential revocation of the Dryades YMCA charter,” school district spokeswoman Taslin Alfonzo told WWL-TV. “It is our hope that through the parties' good faith mediation efforts, these questions will be resolved. At this time, the mediation remains ongoing.”
The Dryades YMCA recently sent notice to the families of approximately 300 Singleton Charter School students telling them not to look for other schooling options and the school year would proceed as planned. The YMCA has also stated that it hopes to transfer the charter to another organization so it can continue operating elsewhere.
But the school district left Singleton off its online signup form at EnrollNOLA.org/open-enrollment/ as one of the schools with seats available for the approaching school year.
Alfonzo said it was an inadvertent error by the district and was fixed immediately when the district was notified on Wednesday. She said the district is taking additional steps to welcome students back to Singleton, adding, "NOLA-PS also notified all K-8 families (Thursday) that seats were available at the James M. Singleton Charter School. NOLA-PS took additional steps to ensure that families received accurate information concerning available seats at the James M. Singleton Charter School to avoid any confusion for families who may have previously obtained inaccurate information based on the projected seat availability chart."