Bethune, Baby Ben Elementary Schools Get The Green Light To Charter

Dec 12, 2017

Superintendent Henderson Lewis says Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary and Benjamin Franklin Elementary are ready to become charter schools. Lewis' approval of the schools' plans mean next year, there will likely remain just one traditional public school in the district.

Bethune and Benjamin Franklin Elementary are some of the last schools that the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) runs directly. Nearly all the rest are charter schools, which receive public dollars, but are run by private, nonprofit boards.

When the principals at Bethune and Baby Ben applied to convert their schools into charters, their charter applications got negative reviews from an outside group, which cited concerns about the schools' proposed board members. There were also concerns about a drop in Bethune's school performance score, which is based on student performance on standardized tests. But Lewis told the OPSB Tuesday, he has faith in Bethune and Baby Ben's "veteran" principals to lead the transition.

"I'm very confident that transitioning them from a direct-operating school to a charter school is the right decision," he said.

The schools plan to open as charters in the fall of 2018. It would mean that next year, the OPSB would directly run just one school: McDonough 35 High School. Unless the school board votes against Lewis' recommendations at their meeting in January, they are final.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated Lewis' recommendations were final if the OPSB didn't vote against them at Thursday's meeting. That was incorrect. The recommendations are final if the board doesn't vote against them by January's meeting.