Nonprofit seeks to start a sixth charter school in Lafayette

A local nonprofit group has submitted a charter school application to the Lafayette Parish School Board to open a career and technical high school in 2015.

Kingdom Builder Community Development Corp. has proposed a high school for grades 9-12 in Lafayette Parish that provides students the opportunity to earn industry-based certification in high-demand, high-wage fields.

The concept of the school — Kingdom Collegiate Academy of Excellence — appears to be in line with the Louisiana Department of Education’s emphasis on “Jump Start,” a statewide revamp of career and technical education in high schools.

“Our goal is that every graduating student has a marketable skill to meet the demands of a high-tech, competitive, global economy,” the applicants wrote in their application.

In response to questions about the proposed school, Aleashia Clarkston, the nonprofit’s chief executive officer, provided a copy of the charter school application.

The deadline for interested groups to submit charter school applications for the School Board’s consideration this year was March 7.

The school district is negotiating a contract with New Millennium Education, a Baton Rouge consulting firm, to review the charter school application, present its findings to the board and review the district’s charter review policies at an estimated cost of $7,500, said Tom Spencer, the school district’s accountability specialist.

The board could make a decision on the application by June 5 to allow time for applicants who are rejected by local boards time to meet a June 12 deadline to appeal to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The single application to open one school is in contrast to last year when the board received two applications to open a total of five schools in the parish within the next four years.

Last year, the School Board rejected the two applications, but they were approved by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Three of the five schools will open in August. Only one of the five new charter schools is a high school and it’s set to open in 2017.

Lafayette School Superintendent Pat Cooper supported last year’s applications, citing a need for more schools to address growth in the parish.

He said Monday that when approached by Kingdom Collegiate’s organizers, he told them he would not support their application.

“I don’t think we need any more charters in Lafayette,” Cooper said. “I think the other people are seeing that we’re making progress in Lafayette and we’re not reaching out for charters.”

The proposed charter high school organizers estimate a first-year enrollment of 400 students.

The group plans to create academies within the school. In a freshman academy, students will explore careers, then enter one of three academies focused on specific career pathways that include architecture and construction; manufacturing and transportation; and business and health.

Last year, the nonprofit’s CEO, Clarkston, received a Louisiana Department of Education Believe and Succeed grant of $75,076 to apprentice as an administrator for a year at Acadiana High School to prepare her to open her own school.

The program’s grants are available to educators interested in turning around struggling schools or starting new schools to help students who attend D or F schools.

Clarkston plans to apply for another grant to assist with the planning and startup of the charter school.

The charter schools approved by BESE for Lafayette Parish are managed by charter management companies Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies. Both companies also o perate other schools in Louisiana.

The Kingdom Collegiate Academy of Excellence would use EdTec, a company specializing in charter school business and development, to handle the business side of its operations, and later hire a business operations manager.

The proposed school is seeking additional board members.

For now, its board includes: Charles C. Achane, president of the Southwest Louisiana Business Development Center; Doris Robert, a retired educator; Harry Daniels III, a Baton Rouge lawyer and the board’s legal adviser; and Jacqueline Gabriel, an Iberia Parish public-school teacher.