The Orleans Parish School Board is touting a smooth transition to a new unified school district, but also seems to be bracing for new challenges as the state moves to a tougher school grading system.
This fall, for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, Orleans Parish public schools are unified under a locally elected school board. Orleans Parish Superintendent Henderson Lewis says the transition from state control was so smooth, students, parents and teachers may not have even noticed.
"If you blink your eye, you missed it," Lewis told reporters at a press conference Tuesday morning.
But Lewis says, behind the scenes district staff have been reorganizing to prepare for new responsibilities as the head of a system of more than 70 autonomous charter schools.
"Rather than operating schools, it’s our job to approve who has the privilege to operate a school," he said.
That job includes closing schools that aren’t meeting the mark - schools that year after year earn a D or F on the school grading system. This year, schools will be judged by a tougher set of standards, and that means a lot more could fall into the D or F category when scores come out in November.
"Much more will be required of me, our elected school board, my team, our charter governing boards, and school leaders," Lewis said. He also said he has concerns about an "alarming plateau in academic performance, and in some cases a decline, which must urgently be addressed."
Last year, the district's letter grade dropped from a B to a C, indicating a drop in student academic performance.