It seems like only yesterday that the Oprah television network featured an exciting new charter school in New Orleans that promised to turn around the John McDonogh school. The new charter group was led by Steve Barr and his Future Is Now organization.
“One year after the Oprah television network featured New Orleans’ John McDonogh High School in “Blackboard Wars,” hoping to depict a successful charter school turnaround, the Recovery School District is dissolving the school. All staff members will lose their jobs.
“A fresh start. This school needs a fresh start,” Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard said of the school run by Future Is Now.
“Struggling charter schools have three years to prove themselves, and they can lose their authorization to operate after the fourth. However, the school known as John Mac is closing after only two years. The high school had the lowest performance score in the state in 2013, after alternative schools.
“The school system is speeding up a long-demanded building renovation to this summer, instead of waiting until 2016. But instead of moving to interim space, as typically happens, all the students must find new schools.
“Future Is Now charter chief Steve Barr said it was entirely a facilities decision, not made in response to low enrollment and poor test scores: “I think it’s a little bizarre to think this is some elaborate scheme to get us out of here. We’ve only in the middle of our second year.”
“Barr said they considered multiple temporary homes for the school but could not find a good alternative. While a number of schools are in portables pending the end of a $1.8 billion facilities master plan, Barr said they were mostly startup charters and portables weren’t appropriate for a turnaround school like John McDonogh.
“Future Is Now has the option of voluntarily giving up the charter, which Barr said would require a board vote. But it doesn’t matter, because when the building reopens after two years, the charter will have expired. Dobard said the school would not be eligible for renewal or extension.
“Dobard acknowledged that John McDonogh’s poor academic performance was an issue. He wouldn’t say the state had erred in granting the charter in the first place. “Hindsight is always 20/20, but we went into it with full confidence,” he said. “Obviously we wished the school would have been performing better at this stage.”
“For Future Is Now, it’s an abrupt end to a would-be feel-good tale.”
Oprah was gung-ho at the eg inning of the story. Why did she disappear at the end?