Parents speak out in support of NCS future

Published 4:33 am Saturday, September 30, 2017

Dozens of Northshore Charter School parents and other supporters attended Thursday’s meeting of the Bogalusa School Board, where they spoke out about the charter school’s future.

In May, the Bogalusa City Schools approved an application changing Northshore Charter School from a Type 2 charter to a Type 1 charter, placing it under the authorization of BCS. Although NCS still has autonomy — it can hire and fire personnel, and controls its own finances — the charter school is now considered “the fourth school under the LEA (local education agreement) of Bogalusa City Schools,” BCS superintendent Lisa Tanner said Thursday.

NCS principal Dee Dee McCullough said the parents chose to attend Thursday’s meeting because they were angry about a consolidation plan reportedly under negotiation, which could reconfigure NCS from a K-12 (kindergarten through 12th grade) school to a K-5 (kindergarten through fifth grade) school. McCullough also said that more than 500 signatures had been collected from parents whose children attend the school.

Angela Jones, who has a sixth and eighth grader at NCS, was one of the more than 10 public speakers during the Thursday meeting. She said she removed her children from BCS schools due to concerns about their safety.

“We are the people who elect you,” Jones said, to the BCS school board members. “Our opinions should be respected. We want the school to remain as it is.”

Those in attendance not only filled every seat in the BCS central office meeting room, but also spilled out into the adjacent hallway.

During her comments in Thursday’s meeting, Tanner said that BCS and NCS are still negotiating over a contract concerning how the charter school will operate in the future. At one point, some of the people in the hallway began to call out with cries of “K through 12!”

“That is in the contract and that will be a negotiation,” said Tanner, before addressing the interruption — one of the few times the hour-long meeting could have gotten out of hand. “Keep hollering and you’ll have to leave. We’re not going to have a circus. I understand your concern, and there is nothing saying that it won’t be K through 12. That is to be negotiated, in the contract, which has not been signed as of yet. Nothing in that contract has been signed and is in stone.”

Both Tanner and BCS school board president Curtis Creel said that the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) had originally planned to shut NCS down completely, after the charter school had not made enough progress in its initial four-year term. BESE Superintendent John White called Creel in November of last year, he said.

“In that conversation, (White) asked me, did I think that the Bogalusa School Board would entertain the idea of accepting Northshore Charter School under a different authorization as a Type 1 charter,” he said.

Creel said that he, BCS administrators and NCS representatives had several meetings with White and other state school officials to determine whether it would be feasible to change NCS from a Type 2 to a Type 1. He noted that there were five charter schools that BESE was considering closing several months ago, including Northshore Charter School, but only NCS still remains open out of those five.

“This has never been done before,” he said. “This is the first time. I personally asked Mr. White, where is our outline? Where is the model on how we do this? He said, ‘There is none. You are breaking new ground in this process.’”

Tanner said that BESE would meet in mid-October, and will likely ask for BCS and NCS to have a signed contract in hand at that time. The plan is for the two parties and their attorneys to negotiate during next week.

“If we go back to BESE without a contract, I can’t say what will happen to Northshore Charter School,” Creel said. “This is a Bogalusa problem. We need a Bogalusa solution. And I think we can come up with a solution if there’s a real effort for everybody to work together to accomplish this.”