By Claire Byun
As the future of education in New Orleans continues to shift toward a unified school district, some charter schools have the option to branch from Orleans Parish School Board oversight.
Warren Easton Charter High School won’t be taking that step – at least this year.
The school’s board of directors voted to keep OPSB as its charter authorizer for the next year. The district is giving charter schools the ability to become its own Local Education Agency (LEA), which substantially increases the responsibilities, services and liabilities of the school. Warren Easton is currently authorized under Orleans Parish Schools, and school officials pay the district a fee to provide several services and legal help to the charter.
David Garland, Warren Easton’s board chair, said dropping OPSB protection is concerning.
“It concerns me that there’s a lot of moving parts we’re not familiar with that we’d have to take over,” Garland said.
Warren Easton pays the district several fees to handle certain issues, such as IT services, testing oversight, special education needs, legal services and oversight of title funding.
Dropping OPSB would require school staff to handle all of those needs on their own.
“So you’re dealing with not only the state but the federal government, because you’re dealing with grants,” Garland said.
Schools that transition into their own LEA cannot fold back into OPSB control until their next charter renewal, which is 10 years for most schools. Billy Hatchett, board member, said costs of running programs that are now covered by OPSB fees would push Warren Easton over budget. School staff would also need training on testing oversight and federal grant work, which would overwork the already-tight faculty.
Warren Easton pays OPSB about $200,000 per year for their LEA charter. Handling most of those programs and tasks without the help of the district could costs upwards of $300,000 at minimum, Garland said.
If more schools continue to drop OPSB coverage, the Warren Easton’s payments will increase.
“Our operating costs will be higher over the next few years, but we’re not sure what that number is,” Garland said.
The board voted unanimously to stay with the district for another year until staff learn more about the LEA process and what’s needed. The board may vote to become their own charter next year, since the decision is available to each school every year.
“The relationship we have with OPSB is winning relationship right now,” Hatchett said. “Let other [schools] be the guinea pigs.”