Red River Charter files application with Avoyelles School Board
Wed, 03/16/2016 - 05:00
Raymond L. Daye
Red River Charter Academy officials have decided to submit their application for a proposed middle-grades charter school to the Avoyelles School Board for the third year in a row. The proposed school had been expected to go directly to the state Board of Elementary & Secondary Education for permission to open a public charter school for grades 6-8.
“We are fully aware that we do not have to submit to our local board because of the district score being a ‘D,’ and we could have gone straight to BESE with our application,” RRCA Board President Pat Ours said. “However, we want to make every effort to show the citizens of Avoyelles and the Avoyelles Parish School Board that we want to work with them and not against them to improve the education for our students in Avoyelles Parish.”
RRCA officials have long said they would prefer that the charter school operate under the approval of the local school board rather than as a state-approved charter school operating without the blessings of the local school district.
Ours said that being a locally chartered school would allow open lines of communication between the School Board and RRCA. In addition, the School Board would receive a portion of the school’s state Minimum Foundation Program funds for services and administration fees.
RRCA plans to become a teacher-training site for state universities, which school officials said could benefit the local school district by directing highly qualified new teachers to fill vacancies at APSD schools.
“Working together shows unity, and when people see unity they see purpose and dedication,” RRCA Executive Director Stephanie Moreau said. “When we work together to accomplish a goal, we all become an impressive force that can overcome any obstacle.”
RRCA has submitted applications for the past two years. The School Board and BESE rejected those applications.
The most recent application was recommended for approval by the School Board’s independent evaluator and by BESE’s outside evaluator.
The School Board rejection was anticipated. Several board members and Superintendent Blaine Dauzat have made no secret of their opposition to a third public charter school in the parish.
The BESE decision was more of a surprise. Comments about the application had more to do with the possibility of a federal court rejecting it due to its possible affect on desegregation of public schools that on any fault in the application itself.
RRCA officials were disappointed in the BESE decision, saying they had hoped the state board would have approved the charter and then let U.S. District Judge Dee Drell decide whether the school might sidetrack the school district’s progress toward becoming a unitary school system.
“We want change in the educational culture of our parish, and that is not a task that any one person can accomplish,” Moreau said. “It will take everyone working together to change the culture in our schools. Every student can and will learn in the right environment. We have to make sure our students have that environment where they will thrive rather than just survive.”
The School Board has until June 3 to approve or deny the charter application. If approved, the application would be submitted to Drell for his green light. If the board denies the application again -- as is expected -- RRCA would take its case to BESE.
Would open in fall 2017
If it gains a charter this year, RRCA plans to open in the fall of 2017 in the former Garan Plant in Marksville. It would start as a grade 6-8 middle school and then add a grade each year until it is a grade 6-12 high school.
“The application process has been long and very rigorous, and we believe it should be,” Moreau said. “We have worked very hard to get this far and we have listened to the needs of our community.”
The school’s mission is to prepare a diverse student body for post-secondary success through rigorous academics and character development, the officials said. Its charter application addresses concerns about rigorous academics, school safety, partnerships and teacher satisfaction and retainment.
Moreau said the RRCA board members and other leaders are “committed to putting in every effort to get RRCA up and running. It takes a lot of time and money to make it through this process, and we have been fortunate enough to have great supporters for the past three years.”
Moreau said everyone involved in the effort has volunteered their time and expertise.
“Our board members have joined with the understanding that they will never receive payment for their services,” Moreau continued. “Our leadership has sacrificed their time off and family time to do all of the work thus far.”
She said the next 10 months “will be crucial” and is asking people to contact their School Board and BESE members to support the charter application.
For additional information, visit the school’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/redrivercharteracademy, or call 253-8128.