New Orleans is often wrongly referred to as an all charter city. In fact five, traditional public schools remained in operation through post-Katrina reforms: Ben Franklin Elementary, Eleanor McMain Secondary, Mahalia Jackson Elementary, Mary Bethune Elementary and McDonogh 35. These are high performing schools directly run by the Orleans Parish School Board.
But that might change. At last night’s school board meeting, Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. said leaders from all five school expressed interest in becoming charters by next year. As charters, they could earn up to $1,000 more per student.
Parent Ingrid Thomas says she’s concerned. She has two children at Ben Franklin Elementary and loves that the school employs lots of veteran teachers. Charter schools tend toward younger staff and higher turnover.
“You need a balance,” Thomas says. “You need to have the energy and the optimism that a first-year or a second-year teacher brings, grounded with the experience and the know-how” that a veteran teacher brings. “And that’s what he have at Franklin. And my concern is we’re gonna lose that.”
It’s not a done deal. If the five schools do want to become charters, they have to let the school board know by the end of January.