Charter school reapplies in Ascension Parish

Backers of the R. Rayborn Charter School are making a second bid to form the first charter school in Ascension Parish.

The group behind the proposed K-5 visual and performing arts school submitted a required letter of intent with the Ascension Parish School Board by the Tuesday deadline for a Type I application, school officials said.

In January, the School Board denied the group’s application in a 9-2 vote. The school system’s third-party manager for the charter process told the School Board then the application was missing data in several areas, including leadership, education programs and teaching.

The charter school’s new board president, Darryl Hambrick, said Wednesday the charter board has undergone a reorganization and brought in an expert to look at the weaknesses identified in January for its new application.

“We are in the process of completing that package,” Hambrick said Wednesday.

The application is due Sept. 27, according to the state Department of Education’s website.

Under state law, local school boards have the authority to approve or reject Type I charter schools.

The Ascension Parish public school system had an A ranking and the seventh highest district performance score in the 2011-12 school year, the most recent state school performance data says.

“Every school in Ascension Parish is not at the top,” Hambrick said of the reason the group wants to form the school. “There are some failing schools, and I guess we need to give parents an alternative.”

The idea for the charter school is an outgrowth of an after-school tutoring and summer program that Eartha Rayborn leads from a classroom building on the campus of Christian Assembly Full Gospel Church off La. 941 in the greater Gonzales area.

Eartha Rayborn, a retired teacher, principal and administrator with the Ascension system, started the program after she retired in 1998.

Rayborn, who serves as the lead educator for the proposed charter school, said she is reapplying because she wants to help children and will not give up after one try.

“That’s my heart,” she said Wednesday.

Rayborn said the school system has worked with her on the after-school program and the charter effort.

She said the group had only three months to put together its application last year and have more time this year.

According to the letter of intent, the school will target at-risk students and offer a strong academic program with visual, performing and creative arts training one hour per day.

Rayborn said the school, which will be in the classroom building on the church’s property, will not be affiliated with the church and will not offer religious education.

The school is named after Rayborn’s husband.

Under state law, charter schools are able to access federal, state and some local public school funding on a per-student basis.

According to the letter, other board members include Ascension Parish Councilman Travis Turner, sheriff’s deputy Verna Lemon, sheriff’s spokeswoman Allison Hudson;,Norma Dukes, executive director of The Arc of East Ascension,;and Juanita Bacala, retired Ascension schools supervisor.

Hambrick is a bar owner, funeral director and active in community groups. He said the school would open in the fall of 2014, if approved, with about 135 students.

Ascension Schools Superintendent Patrice Pujol told the parish School Board Tuesday that the charter application was resubmitted.

She said the School Board’s expert would meet with members at a later date about the process.

The board must make a decision by Dec. 31, the state says.