Louisiana Premier Charter School focuses on August opening in St. John Parish

Published 12:15 am Saturday, March 24, 2018

RESERVE — Louisiana Premier Charter School leaders have every intention of opening a new school in August, providing St. John the Baptist Parish parents and students another tuition-free option for youth education.

Yet, for that to happen, the charter’s leadership and that of the local public school district must come to a legal operating agreement.

That process has become muddled through details of year-1 grade configures, location concerns and student recruitment, possibly forcing the charter school to push back its opening to 2019-20.

Louisiana Premier Board President Mark Roussel said any holdup is not coming from the charter’s end.

“We’ve already gone back and forth with the contract, and now we just need to get in a room and get it signed,” Roussel said. “If there is any point of disagreement, we can resolve it right there and sign it. We will just change the contract and sign it there. I don’t know what else we could do. It takes two to negotiate. They just haven’t come back to us in a timely manner.”

The St. John Parish Public School Board previously approved Louisiana Premier as a Type I Charter, kick-starting a limited partnership between the entities in which each signs a Type I Charter Contract. When agreed to, the charter school would function as a public school operating in St. John Parish.


Ty Manieri, an attorney with Hammonds, Sils, Adkins & Guice, represents the public school district in its negotiations with the charter organization.

During a recent school board meeting, he expressed concern about enrollment at the proposed charter, which had not been settled between kindergarten-through-ninth grade or kindergarten-through-12th grade.

A lack of a firm location, final agreements on School Board-supplied services and enough time to secure federal approval under the desegregation order were other issues Manieri brought up in suggesting the charter school may not have enough time to reach its goal of opening for 2018-19.

Public School Board Member Ali Burl III said many in the community would be negatively impacted if the charter school fails to open by August.

“They actually have people who are pulling their children out of private schools and putting them into other schools just so they can be first on that list,” Burl said.
“I think, at the end of the day, those children will be hurt the most if something is not solved or done somewhere.”

Public School Board Member Nia Mitchell said, “for the record, I want to be clear: We are not the hold up. There is negotiation that is going on between the two. I want it known that we are not trying to stop them from opening.”

Charter response

Roussel said Louisiana Premier Charter School leaders are committed to calling a meeting with public school district leaders in the first week of April to sign an agreement satisfying any expressed desires from the School Board.

Charter leaders simply want an agreement that meets federal approval guidelines and allows the school to open in August.

According to Roussel, the charter school is willing to accept whatever year-1 grade configuration is preferred and would focus on recruiting local students not currently attending public schools in St. John Parish — each of which are public school district suggestions.

The ultimate goal is to operate a kindergarten-through-12th grade school.

Louisiana Premier has a tentative agreement to operate the school at 3556 W. Airline Highway through a lease from Lifehouse Church — where Reserve Christian used to operate — a site that includes 18.6 acres, three classroom buildings, gymnasium, kitchen and cafeteria.

Roussel said that site remains the likely initial home of the charter school but can’t be finalized until a contract is first signed between charter leaders and the school board.

Roussel said charter leaders don’t want to get caught making lease payments for 2018-19 for a school that doesn’t open until 2019-20.

“We are ready to sign today, and there is really no point of contention in any of those things they ask,” Roussel said.