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New Orleans Charter School Fradulently Tried to Graduate 49% of Its Class of 2019.

June 22, 2019

Just shy of half of the Class of 2019 at John F. Kennedy High School at Lake Area did not meet graduation requirements and are therefore not eligible to receive the diplomas that they may have expected to receive when they participated in a graduation ceremony on May 17, 2019. (I write “may have expected” because at the time of the ceremony, both students and the general public knew the school was under investigation for grade fixing.)

That’s 87 out of 177 graduates, or 49 percent (which, by the way, indicates a four-year graduation rate that is at best 51 percent.)

Scandals like this do not begin and end in a single year. And this scandal was not uncovered by state or district oversight. Like too many charter school scandals nationwide, revelation of what you will see described by the board president of the charter organization (New Beginnings Schools Foundation) as “malfeasance and negligence that had for years gone undetected” depended for its detection upon a whisleblower.

The June 21, 2019, Advocate details the fiasco, including backstory. Some excerpts:

Nearly half of the senior class at John F. Kennedy High School was not eligible to graduate this year, even though dozens of those students walked across the stage at a commencement ceremony held in May, officials with the New Beginnings Schools Foundation said Friday.

The charter network’s review of student transcripts, ignited by grade-fixing allegations, revealed that 87 members of the 177-student senior class at Kennedy were ineligible to graduate for a number of reasons ranging from falsely inflated grades to failed end-of-course exams. …

In an interview, Raphael Gang, the president of the charter group’s board, and Marlo Lacen, the board’s parent representative, said a culture of malfeasance and negligence that had for years gone undetected among longtime staff and faculty at the network’s only high school came to a head this summer.

[Gang said] “There was both malfeasance, in terms of things being done to student records that should not have been done to student records by adults, but there was also negligence, in our opinion — where student records were not kept, information was not shared with families in a timely fashion, or not at all, and the issues go back more than just this year.” …

The charter organization will dip into reserve funds to pay for a second round of summer school, he said. Dozens of students must enroll in it if they wish to get their diplomas before the fall.

But at least 24 students are missing so many credits or hours that they will have to reenroll for the upcoming school year to retake multiple courses. Officials identified 17 students who need 2.5 or more credits to be eligible for graduation. …

New Beginnings CEO Michelle Blouin-Williams resigned May 7 and was replaced earlier this month by Kevin George, the superintendent of the St. John the Baptist Parish school district. Five other high-ranking administrators at Kennedy have been dismissed, including the former principal, Brian Gibson. …

The grade-fixing allegations surfaced in February after Runell King, a former data director, said he was wrongfully fired for alerting New Beginnings leaders that employees at Kennedy had manually changed grades for several students who took an Algebra III class taught by a teacher who left before the allegations were made.

For more on Runell King’s allegations, see this March 22, 2019, article in The Lens.

Below is the June 21, 2019, Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) statement on this scandal:

OPSB Issues Statement in Response to NBSF Investigation

June 21, 2019

Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) statement in response to the New Beginnings School Foundation (NBSF) investigation: 

The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) continues to monitor and oversee activities at John F. Kennedy High School to ensure the New Beginning Schools Foundation (NBSF) staff are meeting the requirements set forth by the state as eligibility is verified and keep students best interests front and center. We recognize this has been a very distressing time for all the students and families involved and one that none should have had to experience. While we are very pleased that students and families know now what final actions are needed to receive their diplomas, we remain deeply dissatisfied with the actions taken by JFK staff that lead to this unacceptable and troubling series of events.

“I am deeply troubled by the findings which have been shared regarding graduation eligibility at John F Kennedy High School,” said Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr. “The students and families impacted were underserved and misled by those they trusted with their education, and the outcome is both heartbreaking and completely unacceptable. OPSB will hold the New Beginnings Schools Foundation accountable for these egregious acts, and my team will work to ensure students quickly receive the support they need to complete their requirements.”

Working with NBSF and the Louisiana Department of Education, the OPSB has confirmed the following actions have taken place:

  • NBSF has confirmed that students that were deemed eligible for graduation have been receiving their diplomas.
  • NBSF has confirmed the outstanding students’ eligibility status of seniors at John F. Kennedy High School.
  • The school administration has begun to contact the families of those students to inform them of what is needed for each student to receive their diploma and how JFK will provide the necessary supports.
  • Students will begin receiving support through an extended summer school.

OPSB will continue to monitor and inform actions NBSF takes to support these students through the receipt of their diplomas. Additionally, OPSB plans to oversee work done by the new administrative team at JFK in preparation for the 19-20 school year.  At this time, revocation proceedings have not been initiated. OPSB’s investigation remains ongoing. Therefore, no final determination or consequences have been issued yet.

Additionally, OPSB recognizes that more must be done to prevent this situation from occurring in the future. The district has begun efforts to identify ways we can improve our oversight and support of high schools in tracking and monitoring student progress towards graduation.

If you are a concerned parent or guardian with a student at John F. Kennedy High School, please contact Kevin George, the NBSF CEO, at (504) 267-8811 or by email at kevin.george@newbeginningsnola.net with any questions.

I wonder how many parents will sue the charter school organization and the school district.

Let’s hear it for school choice superiority in this age of test-score-driven, market-based ed reform.

thinker facepalm

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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4 Comments
  1. Both OPSB (Henderson Lewis gang) and New Beginnings’ Board Chair Raphael GANG (formerly of LDOE) are responsible for this due to their TOTAL failure to monitor and oversee this school (not to mention all the others now under(?) OPSB). No doubt about the need for families of these students to sue the heck out of both entities and their paid admins. There should be lawyers lined up at the gate!! This investigation could also catch the attention of the FBI which has long been needing to investigate the depth of corruption and misappropriation and mismanagement of public local, state and federal dollars!!!!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: 49% of NOLA Charter “Graduates” Lacked Credits to Graduate | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. New Orleans’ Kennedy High School Grading Fiasco and Perforated Accountability | deutsch29
  3. Mercedes Schneider On NOLA Charter Chaos | Diane Ravitch's blog

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