Last Modified: Thursday, July 12, 2012 11:34 AM
The Calcasieu Parish School Board denied a request Tuesday evening to provide transportation to the two area charter schools for the 2012-2013 school year.
The board also met in closed executive session to give a performance evaluation of Superintendent Wayne Savoy. Savoy’s third term contract is expected to be discussed and acted on at the regular meeting on August 7.
Savoy has served as superintendent since 2006. The last time Savoy’s contract was up, the board approved a four year contract extension on Sept. 10, 2008.
Gene Thibodeaux, the Lake Charles Charter Academy Foundation president, sent a letter to Savoy on May 10 requesting a partnership between Lake Charles Charter Academy, Southwest Louisiana Charter Academy, and the district regarding transportation. On June 19, Savoy responded to Thibodeaux denying the partnership.
Thibodeaux and the Foundation then met with a lawyer, James Spruel Jr., to send a “demand letter” to Savoy and the school board. The letter outlined the Foundation’s reasoning and mentioned the laws that required the school district to provide transportation.
“We hereby again make demand for student transportation services under the authority of Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:158 and 17:3991. In your (Savoy’s) letter dated June 19, 2012, you spoke of “the best interest of the students that attend Calcasieu Parish public schools.” Without any attempt to even appear pedantic, we note that students attending the Lake Charles Charter Academy and the Southwest Louisiana Charter Academy are students that attend Calcasieu Parish public schools,” the demand letter stated.
Savoy said he felt he did not have enough information to accept the proposal. He requested more information on actual cost and on the specific bus routes. He also recommended that the school board should vote to deny the request.
Spruel responded to Savoy and spoke to the board to explain the charter schools’ position. He said that he interpreted the law to mean that the school board must enter into an agreement with the charter schools before any further arrangements could be made.
“We do not want to negotiate price if it is not in good faith,” Spruel said.
The CPSB legal counsel Gregory Belfour spoke to the school board about a precedent case in which the Avoyelles Parish School Board faced the same charter school transportation issues. The court ruled that the district must make an agreement with the charter school to provide transportation, but the charter schools must pay the actual cost.
“The law is clear and we will pay for the actual cost of transportation. We believe in and we support the public school system despite their repeated rejections of our reasonable requests to cooperate. We have requested three times for new charter schools and on three occasions have been denied. We have requested basic transportation and have again been denied. We are at a loss to understand what they are afraid of,” Thibodeaux said.
“We are disappointed, but we will move forward with our plans.”
Thibodeaux said that transportation will be provided through a private company for students at both Lake Charles Charter Academy and Southwest Louisiana Charter Academy for the upcoming school year.
He also said that the Foundation will move forward and assess “various legal options against the school board.”
“For the school board to ignore clearly established law is just unacceptable.”
Board members cited cost and current challenges the district already faces regarding buses as reasons for denying the request.
“Year after year we look at transportation issues — the budget we are confronted with, the number of buses, the condition of our fleet that we have. We are challenged with drivers, getting enough drivers. We are challenged with finding enough substitute drivers. Going and recommending to expand, I can’t support that,” said Joe Andrepont, the District 12 school board member.
The board’s vote split 12-3, with Mack Dellafosse, Clara Duhon and Fredman Hardy voting in favor of working out an agreement with the charter schools.
“I was voting against them denying transportation. I thought that when Mr. Spruel spoke and our own attorney, Mr. Belfour, spoke it was clear that we didn’t have a choice. They said that we must. Being that we had two attorneys speaking the same language, which is not always the case, I felt we should have heeded their advice. It may come back to us again to look at it, but if we don’t, then we are just going to be spinning our wheels, spending our money unnecessarily spending our money fighting this when we’re going to end up paying it in the end,” said Dellafosse, the District 7 school board member.
“I just want us as a board to do what’s right for kids. I think sometimes we as adults get in the way of what’s right for kids and I think the idea was to give kids transportation to a school of their liking, especially if they’re not able to go to schools that are considered the high-performing schools.”
Posted By: Doug On: 7/11/2012
Title: Oh Really?
As soon as I heard about this school, I questioned why it was located so far away from those students that it purports to so-called serve; e.g. how would students from the Goosport area who do not have adequate transportation get there? Ridiculous!! Somebody is looking at dollar signs, evidently. Why is it not somewhere within walking distance of the schools that have been shuttered? Our state and our city are chock full of morons.
Posted By: J. Malino On: 7/11/2012
Title: You can't have your cake and eat it too
It would appear, based on the fundemental ideals of the Charter School, that children attened these schools because (1) their parents believe that public schools do not provide an acceptable level of education, and (2) charter schools cater more to underpriviledged and minorities. And although the CPSB continues to deny approval to charter schools, they somehow continue to get approval for all that they ask for. Interesting.
So the thought for the day is this. If charter schools are funded by the parents who send their children there, and the schools are independent from the public school system, then why can't the charter schools devise a plan to provide their own transportation? After all, you can't have your cake and eat it too.
Lastly, my children all attended public schools; I paid (and still pay) taxes for them to attend. I am NOT in favor of providing addtional funding in any form to charter schools, even if they pay for the use of the buses. Just goes to prove that those who have money often believe that they can rule over the rest of society.