Photograph; John McDonogh High School Principal Marvin Thompson attends the first Future Is Now Schools charter board meeting since administrators learned the school would close at the end of the current academic year. (March 11, 2014.) (Danielle Dreilinger, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Over the last few decades, we have seen that education news morphed into business views. Often what we read is “safe for printing”, minus the background. Before you read Future is Now Director Steve Barr’s views on John McDonogh High School Closure you may wish to review another perspective.
Dr. Raynard Sanders, host of New Orleans Imperative has over thirty years of experience in teaching, educational administration, and economic and community development. As a principal of a New Orleans high school, he was recognized by the Louisiana State Department of Education for guiding his high school through four consecutive years of improvement on the state graduate exit exam, He offers this reflection….A little background….John McDonogh High School in New Orleans was given to Future is Now, a charter operator run by Steve Barr founder of Green Dot Charter Schools, for the 2012-2013 school term. After announcing how they were going to dramatically turn the school around, firing all the faculty members, hiring a principal at a salary of $150,000 a year, hiring an Assistant Principal at $115,00 a year for the Freshman class of 9 students and making the school a film studio in a controversial production of a reality show with the Oprah Winfrey Network, BlackBoard Wars (which practically took up the who school year). last month the Louisiana State Department announced that John McDonogh would close at the end of the 2013-2014 school term for renovations and that Future is Now would not return as the operator.
In the midst of the madness Future is Now produced a shocking 9.5 School Performance Score, for the 2012-2013 school term, on a 150 point scale…it should be noted that before Future is Now took over the school the School performance Score hovered between 30 pts- 40 pts.…..so the charter operator ran the school score down to single digits in one year……I know this is amazing.
Finally Steve Barr, the Director of Future is Now gave an explanation on their failure, below is a comment I made on my Facebook page and a copy of the article in yesterday’s paper.
Just when you think you have heard it all…………John McDonogh charter operator, Steve Barr, says that they were unsuccessful because of supply and demand, he went on to explain that you can’t run a school with less than 300 students………..of course there are no high schools in the country that are successful with less than 300 students….unbelievable.
Steve Barr on John McDonogh High Closure: Supply and Demand
As John McDonogh High‘s leaders begin the process of closing the New Orleans school, charter chief Steve Barr took the opportunity at a no-quorum board meeting Tuesday to give his explanation of what went wrong. He said the problem boiled down to supply and demand.
State Education Superintendent John White told him that New Orleans public high schools had 125 seats for every 100 students, Barr said. “It’s not management. It’s not we don’t know what we’re doing. You can’t run a high school with 300 kids.”
John McDonogh had 311 students as of Oct. 1, 2013, down from 389 the year before.
The state Recovery School District decided to close the historic New Orleans building for renovations, and Barr’s Future Is Now charter group will not be in charge when “John Mac” reopens. The school has posted dismal test scores in its first two years of a failed turnaround and was called “the most dangerous school in America” in an Oprah television network miniseries.
Tuesday was the charter board’s first meeting since the closure was announced. Two board members attended — John Hope and Charles Fenet — and no members of the public.
Barr said the lack of students and the need to renovate the building doomed Future Is Now’s turnaround attempt. The school program would have been moved into temporary facilities. “Their opinion was with numbers the way they are now, how do you compete in trailers,” Barr said, referring to Education Department staff.
He presented the problem as a national one, reflecting changes in urban populations. “It’s not unique to New Orleans. There’s a lot of urban core; there’s not enough kids,” he said. The result is over-supply, because “it’s very hard to close schools, especially in a city like this where schools mean so much to people.”
That said, the Recovery School District has either closed or not reopened many institutions since it took over all but about 20 of the city’s schools after Hurricane Katrina. The casualties included L.E. Rabouin, Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass High schools. Sarah T. Reed High School will close at least temporarily in June, and L.B. Landry High was merged with O. Perry Walker in 2013.
The two John Mac board members received a brief update on the administration’s current concerns: the budget, graduation, summer remediation and the transition to new schools for underclassmen.
Principal Marvin Thompson said only five seniors will definitely not graduate, and he proposed three weeks of summer school in June. He was trying to identify students who would be only one class or one end-of-course exam short.
The Recovery School District’s OneApp team has been working with students to ensure they apply for a new school. Thompson said 99 percent of freshmen and 85 percent to 90 percent of sophomores and juniors had submitted an application for next year.
Future Is Now’s chief financial officer Bill Kiolbasa said the school will patch part of its budget gap with about $200,000 anticipated from a $39 million deferred-revenue fund held by the Orleans Parish School Board. That fund was built up with higher-than-expected sales and property taxes over three fiscal years.
John Mac staff members have mostly remained in place, Thompson said. Some have already found jobs for next year. As for his own next year, Thompson said he had not yet started job-hunting and was focused entirely on John McDonogh.
Board member Fenet credited Thompson and ninth-grade Principal Angela Kinlaw for their service to the school. “Thanks so much for all you’ve done,” he said. “I hope New Orleans can keep you around.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified the chief financial officer of the charter group Future Is Now. His name is Bill Kiolbasa.