Plan for St. James charter school rejected

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 18, 2011

By David Vitrano


LUTCHER – An application for a charter school in St. James Parish was rejected by the School Board Tuesday after a review of the application found some “troubling aspects.”

Among the reasons for the rejection of the Greater Grace Charter Academy were concerns about the influence of religion on the curriculum and some underlying problems with both the business and academic plan for the institution.

Claudette Aubert, who is the driving force behind the proposal, said she wants to open a charter school that will cater to the troubled and at-risk youth of the parish.

“I am hearing all the problems,” she said. “I live in the community, so I know what’s going on.”

The board rejected the proposal unanimously on the recommendation of the administration.

“We’re a very small district, and I think we meet the needs of our kids very well,” said Superintendent Alonzo Luce, adding “We’re going to continue the discussion.”

He said while he doesn’t mind the competition, he is not sure St. James Parish is the right setting for such an endeavor.

Aubert said her next step will be to take the application directly to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

On Tuesday the board also authorized the advertisement of bids for renovations to the gymnasiums at Sixth Ward Elementary, Fifth Ward Elementary, Paulina Elementary, Vacherie Elementary, Gramercy Elementary and the Career and Technology Center. Because the scope of work at Fifth Ward is so extensive, however, the board will discuss whether they want to scale back the renovations there at the board retreat in July.

Also introduced Tuesday were a new policy regarding conduct at school-related functions, the amended budget for the 2010-11 school year and the proposed budget for the 2011-12 school year.

The proposed policy affects anyone attending any school event or school-related function and prohibits the use of vulgar or obscene language or gestures, possessing or being under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances, possessing a weapon, fighting and intimidation or “engaging in any activity which is disruptive or illegal.”

The board will vote on the policy at its next regular meeting.

The budget for the 2010-11 school year ended up looking a little better than anticipated when it was drawn up last summer. For the fiscal year ending June 30, the administration anticipates an ending general fund balance of $20.5 million, which is $6.9 million more than originally budgeted. This is due in part to higher-than-expected tax revenues.

Regarding the proposed budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year, the district will hold a public hearing Tuesday, June 28, before the board votes on it that evening.

While the administration has predicted a $2 million operating deficit for the year, unexpected surpluses from the previous two years should balance out the projected deficit.