BR charter has link to troubled site
State Department of Education officials said Wednesday night they will launch an investigation of Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School.
The Baton Rouge school is operated by the Pelican Educational Foundation.
The foundation also runs Abramson Science and Technology Charter School in New Orleans, which was closed last week amid allegations of sexual abuse and other problems.
The fact that both schools are run by Pelican means that operations at Kenilworth need to be reviewed, said Ollie Tyler, acting state superintendent of education.
“With so many questions and allegations surrounding the Pelican Education Foundation’s operation of the Abramson charter school in New Orleans, we think it’s appropriate to expand the investigation to include Kenilworth Science and Technology School, which is located in Baton Rouge and also operated by Pelican,” Tyler said in a note to members of Louisiana’s top school board.
“We cannot afford to have a charter school operator in Louisiana that is putting our kids in a potentially unsafe and unstable learning environment,” she said.
Kenilworth school officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
Kenilworth has about 450 middle school students.
The charter was authorized by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2009 to take over Kenilworth Middle School after years of academic and other problems.
BESE President Penny Dastugue said Wednesday night that a check of Kenilworth “was a natural next step” since Pelican operates both schools.
“I am not aware of anything specific on Kenilworth,” Dastugue said of possible allegations.
Top officials of the state Department of Education have not heard of any allegations of sexual incidents at Kenilworth, said Rene Greer, director of communications for the department.
Abramson charter school was closed last week while the department checked on whether school officials reported an alleged sexual incident between two elementary students.
Abramson has about 600 students from kindergarten to the 12th grade and 55 faculty members.
In a prepared statement, the department announced Wednesday night that there are additional reports of alleged sexual incidents between students, including rape, at Abramson.
Tyler said state officials have contacted New Orleans police and are working with other state agencies, including the inspector general’s office.
She said a report will be provided to the public in the next 30 days.
In addition, two employees have been removed from the state Department of Education’s charter school program, officials said. The program helps oversee the operation of those schools in Louisiana.
The department declined to identify the pair.
Chas Roemer, a member of BESE from Baton Rouge, said he was unaware of any specific allegations involving Kenilworth.
Roemer said about 12-18 months ago he got some complaints about the teaching of religion at the school.
He said he asked that the concerns be checked and was told that nothing out of the ordinary was going on.
“I have not heard any specifics beyond that,” Roemer said.
Charter schools are public schools that are supposed to offer innovative methods, and without much of the red tape that accompanies traditional schools.