MCSB reverses decision on a new charter school, denies application

MONROE, La. (KNOE) - The Monroe City School Board voted in a special meeting Monday night to reverse a decision to establish a new charter school.

"We consider this a tremendous victory," said Tamara Ross, President of the Monroe City Association of Educators.

MCSB reconsidered its approval of the charter application for J.W. Brown Laboratory Charter School after a majority vote.

In a 6-to-1 decision, the application was turned down. Board Member Betty Cooper was the only one to oppose.

"This is not about politics, and this is not about posturing, this is about taking care of Monroe."

The board originally voted in favor of the school in a 3-1-2 vote two weeks ago, with two abstaining. One member had to leave the meeting early.

School Board President Bill Willson voiced his opposition to the original vote. He says a new charter school would bring consequences that would drastically affect students and teachers, such as cutting jobs or teacher raises.

The board held several meetings after the first vote to weigh those cons if the charter school were to be implemented. Board Member Betty Cooper addressed those comments in the open meeting.

"My concerns that our children deserve every opportunity of receiving a quality education has to outweigh my concerns for saving jobs in the Monroe City School System," said Cooper.

Willson says he's unsure why Cooper would continue to show support. Ouachita Parish declined the charter application for this same school last year.

"Still don't understand why she was in favor of this charter school, why was she in favor of having teachers potentially laid off, having teachers have their pay cut, potentially having a school closed, I can't answer that as to why she would vote in favor of the charter and having those affect our school system. You'll have to ask her," said Willson.

Opponents of the proposed charter say the district has problems they need to address first, like teachers retention and more student programs, and the idea of a new charter school doesn't fit the bill.

"Yeah they need some help. Sure we can help teachers get pay raises, we can help a lot of different things, but a charter school is not the answer to make that happen," said Sandie Lollie, President of the Monroe Federation of Teachers & School Employees.

The board will now look forward on ways to continue to improve the district.

"Thank goodness, I think we made lemonade today out of some potential lemons that hit the ground," said Willson.

The group that submitted the charter application, Cartwright Learning, has until June 21st to appeal to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.