Serena Gotch was one of just a couple of parents, and one of barely a dozen people, attending a meeting Tuesday to discuss the latest changes at the north Baton Rouge middle school where her son, Darius, 13, is about to finish eighth grade.
“They have worked with him here,” said Gotch, standing in a classroom at Glen Oaks Middle School. “Some teachers have gone above and beyond.”
Gotch said, however, she is concerned about the school’s future as she heard leaders with the Louisiana Department of Education’s Recovery School District.
The middle school is in the process of turning from a charter school into a school run by the district, then within a year or two it will be turned into a charter school once again.
In 2008, it was taken from the East Baton Rouge Parish school system and turned into a charter school, which is a public school run privately.
“The Recovery School District doesn’t want to be in the business of running schools any longer,” said Kimberly Williams, portfolio manager for the district, to the audience.
Gotch said the middle school has been isolated and lacked support compared with other schools she’s dealt with in the parish school system.
The mother said she is not averse to moving her son; she’s shopping for the right high school now.
“Ever since he started school, if a school was a failing school, I’d pull him out,” the mother said. “I decided to take a chance on this school.”
Glen Oaks Middle is a chronically low-performing school that has seen repeated changes in leadership, faculty and students through the years.
Darius has been an eyewitness to some of these changes.
He started middle school when Averil Sanders was still the principal at Glen Oaks Middle School.
At the end of that year, the charter school group that ran the school, Advance Baton Rouge, had a shakeup and brought in a whole new set of principals, including Staughton Jennings, the current principal.
In the fall, Advance Baton Rouge agreed to hand over management of its five schools to the Recovery School District. They are five of six schools that the district is planning to run directly in the 2012-13 school year.
In addition to Tuesday’s meeting at Glen Oaks, and one held Monday at Prescott Middle, the district is holding four more meetings to discuss what the state agency has in store for these schools: on Wednesday, at Lanier Elementary School; Thursday, Dalton Elementary School; Monday, Pointe Coupee Central High School; and Tuesday, Capitol High School.
Collectively, with the exception of Pointe Coupee Central, the district is calling these schools a “Baton Rouge Achievement Zone,” a network of charter or charterlike schools accompanied by generous private support. The state’s goal is to raise $30 million worth of such support in the next year.
In the meantime, the schools appear to have little new to offer parents.
Jennings, whom the district is retaining next year to run Glen Oaks Middle, told the small audience he has applied for the international baccalaureate program.
A rarity in Louisiana, the program, often called by its initials IB, is a set of high school courses, similar to Advanced Placement, that is recognized and commands college credit at colleges and universities.
Middle schools such as Glen Oaks can offer a preparatory curriculum known as the “Middle Years Programme.”
No middle school, though, has as yet been identified to offer the high school courses that are the crux of IB.
Jennings said one possible way of doing that is for Glen Oaks Middle to add high school grades in the future.
Jennings, however, said he has no assurances from the district that any new charter school group brought in to run Glen Oaks Middle would retain IB or any other academic program at the school now.
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