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NOLA’s James Singleton Charter School: Academically Unacceptable, Riddled with Scandal, Still Open.

March 28, 2021

New Orleans-based James Singleton Charter School has been allowed to operate for almost two decades despite its established record as academically unacceptable and being riddled with scandal.

Here we go again, compliments of WWLTV on March 26, 2021:

NEW ORLEANS — The Dryades YMCA board of directors held a tense meeting Friday and had to scramble to deal with the retirement of its longtime president and chief executive officer as state and local police looked into allegations of employees’ falsified background checks.

It was the first time the board had met since a scathing letter earlier this month from New Orleans Public Schools alleged fake employee background checks at James Singleton Charter School, a public K-8 school run by and housed in the historic Y in Central City.

The board members gave the Y’s departing president and CEO, Doug Evans, a standing ovation after he made brief comments. He spent 45 years working for one of the few formerly segregated Black YMCA’s left in the country. Evans touted his team’s work supporting and educating the Central City community, providing youth programs and teaching water safety.

But there was no avoiding the fact that his resignation comes amid scandal.

The organization’s chief financial officer, Catrina Reed, resigned Friday.

It’s unclear what led to her departure, but federal court records show she was convicted of robbery in 1996. She was also charged with embezzlement, although that charge was dropped, and had to pay more than $1,100 in restitution to Delta Bank and Trust.

Sources told WWL-TV Reed hid her financial crime from the YMCA before she was hired to handle the agency’s multi-million-dollar finances. …

Meanwhile, New Orleans Public Schools’ chief compliance officer, Kevin George, was also at Friday’s board meeting. …

George declined to comment, but the school district said his March 10 letter spoke for itself. The letter alleged that a routine compliance check at Singleton found at least 10 employees who had criminal background checks with false identification numbers or incorrect State Police signatures.

George said that in several instances, the background checks showed no rap sheet when the employee actually had one. And in at least one instance, the employee had a criminal conviction or pled no contest to a crime that prohibited that person from working at a school, George wrote.

In 2018, James Singleton Charter School chose not to expand after another scandal rocked its world. From the February 1, 2018 Lens:

Allegations of cheating and impropriety on standardized tests at James M. Singleton Charter School have already led to the firing of four educators and the CEO’s resignation from Dryades YMCA, which runs the school.

Now the YMCA has backed out of its plan to take over the facility housing Mahalia Jackson Elementary School, according to a news release issued Thursday afternoon.

As to those testing irregulrities, from the January 23, 2018 Lens:

Four educators at James M. Singleton Charter School were fired last week after the state Department of Education voided standardized tests for about 165 students because of irregularities and suspected cheating.

The state brought the allegations to Singleton’s board this fall. When the board started looking into the matter, chairman Darren Mire said, some answers from administration didn’t add up.

“As we were doing the cleanup, we realized this is a systematic problem,” he said. “We wanted to be prepared for the spring testing and that’s why we made the moves we made.”

School leader Rosemary Martin, district test coordinator and curriculum coordinator Tenisha Marcel, special education chairperson Cynthia Walker, and social worker Steven Byrd were terminated, Mire said.

As for James Singleton Charter School’s grades, well, one must wonder at the school choice excellence that is allowed to continue almost two decades (predating Katrina) in New Orleans. As education advocate and career teacher, Vicky Johnston, notes regarding James Singleton Charter School’s school grade history:

  • In 2003 their baseline SPS was 33.5, academically unacceptable, they only had 6-8 grades.
  • In 2004 their SPS was 36.2, academically unacceptable, 6-8 grades.
  • In 2005 their SPS was 49.9, academically unacceptable, 6-8 grades.
  • 2006 no data, 2007 no data
  • 2008 expanded to Pr-K to 8, baseline 55.2. Academically unacceptable.
  • 2009 SPS 62.5 , academically unacceptable, PreK-8
  • 2010, SPS 70.1, given new baseline, academic watch, PreK-8
  • 2011, Letter grade F, SPS 65.4, school in decline
  • 2012, Letter grade F, this is the year the reports from LDOE were changing and baselines were changed.
  • 2013, Letter grade D
  • 2014 Letter grade C
  • 2015 Letter grade D, SPS 47.4
  • 2016 Letter grade C , SPS 69
  • 2017 Letter grade D, 51.4 (2016-17 tests were the tests that were voided for “irregularities”)
  • 2018 Letter grade F, SPS 39.2
  • 2019 Letter grade F, SPS 35.3

Academically unacceptable for its first three years; no data for next two years, then allowed to expand in 2008 all while continuing in its academically unacceptable status.

Then the grades waffle a bit between D and C, with a testing scandal uncovered in the midst of this school-grade heyday:

Louisiana Department of Education

October 27, 2017

Mr. Darren Mire

RSD-Dryades YMCA

2220 Oretha C. Haley Blvd.

New Orleans, LA 70113

Dear Mr. Mire:

During the summer of 2017, potential testing irregularities at James Singleton Charter School were reported to the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE). The accusation stated that students were receiving copies of the LEAP test prior to taking the test, teachers and staff were taking the test for students, and test administrators were coaching students during the test. The LDOE began an investigation, including interviewing all school staff involved in testing, interviewing students, as well as reviewing documentation regarding testing.

During this review the LDOE discovered the following students at James Singleton Charter School received accommodations that were not properly documented….

(34 students-subject test combinations identified and redacted)

As a result of the findings, the tests listed above will be voided and count as a zero for accountability. The LDOE inquiry will continue and LDOE reserves the right to void additional tests if further findings are discovered.

Why, oh why, is this school still allowed open?

It can only be due to the “who you know” of it all. There is no other reason.

____________________________________________________________________________

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