Louisiana Premier could open in 2020; BESE pushes for operating agreement

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, June 26, 2019

RESERVE — Louisiana Premier Charter School will not open for the 2019-2020 school year, but it’s not the end of the road for families advocating for local charter school education.

An August 2020 opening in St. John the Baptist Parish is still possible with an operating agreement between Louisiana Premier Charter School and the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board, charter officials said.

At a June 19 committee meeting, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved a substitute motion to defer Louisiana Premier Charter School’s request to open as a Type 2 charter school.

However, the Board also charged Louisiana Premier and the St. John School Board to work together on finalizing an operating agreement that would allow the charter school to open as a Type 1 charter for the 2020-2021 school year.

Local school boards are responsible for the oversight of the Type 1 charter schools they authorize, according to the Louisiana Department of Education. Meanwhile, Type 2 charter schools are authorized by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and overseen by the Department of Education.

Both types 1 and 2 have a charter management organization that includes a board of directors to govern school finances, operations and administration.

Louisiana Premier school leader Alison Andrews did not offer any further comment when reached by L’OBSERVATEUR early this week.

In an emailed statement, Louisiana Premier leaders thanked the community for its patience, trust and continued support.

“Thanks to all of you for taking a risk and believing in LAPC!” the statement read. “We know that this was a difficult decision for you, and we will never take for granted that your children are our No. 1 priority.”

In the correspondence, Louisiana Premier leaders promised to keep the community updated as decisions are made.

St. John School Board president Patrick Sander’s said the Board of Education’s decision mirrors the thought process of the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board.

In May, St. John School Board members denied Louisiana Premier’s request to open on the Riverside Academy campus, after months of negotiation.

All present Board members approved the denial except Gerald Keller, who abstained. The School Board also discontinued negotiations between the two entities in terms of opening the charter school for academic year 2019-20.

The decision seemed to weigh heavily on the recommendation of School Board attorney Ty Manieri, who was hired to guide the District through its negotiation process with Louisiana Premier Charter.

Manieri contended Louisiana Premier Charter’s co-location at Riverside Academy aligned too close to a “school conversion,” a process prohibited under state law that says a private school cannot convert into a charter school.

Manieri said the challenges were solvable, but not in the timeframe of opening for 2019-20.

A statement released Friday by the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board assured families that School Board members would continue to explore options that would allow Louisiana Premier to open as a Type 1 charter.

In the statement, School Board members acknowledged concerns on educational choices in St. John Parish with the following:

“The School Board understands that educational decisions can weigh heavy on parents and guardians of school-aged children, and the School Board is disappointed that an agreement was unable to be reached with LAPC to expand the variety of quality public education options available to local parents for the upcoming school year.”

Board members encourage families impacted by the delayed opening to contact the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board to explore available academic options.