Ascension board denies charter application

The Ascension Parish School Board on Tuesday rejected the application of a charter school that hoped to open in the parish for the 2013-14 school year.

By a 9-2 vote, the board denied the application for the R. Rayborn Charter School, a kindergarten through fifth-grade school that planned to locate on La. 941 in Gonzales. Catherine Davis and Richard “Coach” Brown were the two board members who voted in favor of the charter school.

Four people spoke at a public hearing in support of the charter school, which would be an offshoot of a summer educational program run at Christian Assembly Full Gospel Church in Gonzales.

Erica Brown Ramos said the school, which was projected to house 226 students in the six grades by 2015-16, would help improve the confidence and performance of some students who are being left behind in the public school system.

“It’s an opportunity for us to focus on the children who aren’t performing like we believe they should,” she said.

Kim Williams, the third-party manager of the charter school application process for the School Board said, however, the charter school’s application met state standards in only two of eight sections — pre-opening and governance of the school. She said the application was missing key data in the areas of culture, leadership, school operations, education program, teaching and budget/financial management.

Williams did praise the school’s organizers for their efforts and said more time could aid the organizers’ proposal.

“They have put together a phenomenal board who wants to do outstanding things for kids,” Williams said.

The denial left the charter school officials with two options — seek approval from the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or wait until the next charter school application process begins in September and try for approval to open for the 2014-15 school year.

Eartha Rayborn, a former principal and supervisor in the Ascension Parish school system, said she and other charter school officials would wait until September to submit an improved application. She said her “heart” was in helping at-risk and below-grade-level children.

“It’s not that we’re against the Ascension Parish School Board,” she said. “We want to work with them because after the fifth grade, they go back into the school system.”