The Red River Parish School Board said “No” to the applicants for a charter school in the Parish. The board voted unanimously to accept the recommendations of an independent evaluator hired to examine the application from Advantage Charter Academy. A special called meeting of the board was held Monday night to consider the application of proposed School Director Crystal Cummins.
Speaking in favor of the application were Cummins and Traci Schmidley of Coushatta. Schmidley spoke first expressing her desire that there be ore options for the school system. She said when her family moved to Coushatta two years ago she was told the parish education system was weak, that some people had opted to attend private school or out-of-parish schools. Schmidley said, “A new, innovative approachmay bring back people who have left the public school system.” And Schmidley added, “New innovation is very attractive to industry and others to show the community is growing and thriving.”
Cummins began her presentation by stating, “I am not the enemy. I taught in Red River Parish and I loved it. I left to have a baby.” The proposed charter school would be a Montessori school. Cummins related that she had seen the Montessori system help a neglected child to grow. And she said children who have a greater capacity to learn “explore areas of interests with reading added in and math added in.”
Randy Thomas, Jr. addressed the board with several questions he had concerning the application. His first question was, “How would this benefit the parish? How many students? What is the impact on transportation needs?” Thomas said he saw an ad for the school several months ago and at that time it was a private school. Thomas asked, “Was there a reason for the change to this type of school?”
Another speaker was Tarina Duplantis. She told the board, “My daughter gets all that Montessori claims to offer. She is now getting it at Red River Elementary School.” Duplantis said she graduated from the parish and has a daughter who graduated here. Both have college degrees. Duplantis made the point “It is what the child takes from the school.”
Then the board heard from Kimberly Williams, the third party evaluator. Williams said she studied the application and all information she could find out about the principals of the proposed school. Her recommendation was to deny the application based on several factors.
Williams’ report questioned the applicant on finances, lack of a proven school leader, how the Montessori program would meet the needs of “at-risk” students in the parish, and the applicant was criticized for failing to provide a plan to improve student performance.
Following the presentations, board member Gary Giddens moved “to accept the recommendations to deny the charter application from Advanced Charter Academy.” Board member Susan Taylor seconded the motion. All members of the board voted in favor of the motion to deny.
After the meeting The Journal asked School Superintendent Alison Hughes for her response. Hughes said, “It was a win for public education. The school board is doing everything possible to give the best possible education to students. We give all options available to the students. I think the charter school is not needed at this moment.”