Should the James Singleton Charter School Be Closed?

Photo credit: Danae Columbus

The Orleans Parish School Board will meet as a Committee of the Whole Tuesday afternoon. During their Executive Session they will discuss the ongoing litigation with the James Singleton Charter School and the possibility that the perennially underperforming facility will be closed. 

After NOLA-PS and Singleton Charter officials met in a court-ordered mediation last week, NOLA-PS agreed to accept the new Singleton Charter background check policy. Unfortunately, the background check fiasco is only one of the problems that NOLA-PS discovered. Others include poor accounting practices, missing funds and questionable expenditures. 

Still Singleton Charter leaders and their Dryades YMCA supporters are pushing ahead to keep the school open. Banks hosted a community fair and school supplies drive last Saturday (July 24th) that drew a large crowd of eager parents and their children. 

It’s easy to understand that Singleton Charter and the Dryades Y play critical roles in the Central City community where many residents still live below the poverty level, often in sub-standard housing. Both facilities created badly needed jobs that nearby residents with the right political leanings could fill. To the neighborhood, the Dryades Y and Singleton Charter are clear signs of empowerment. The fate of both are inextricably tied to the success of the neighborhood. 

Built and managed by Blacks for Blacks, area residents feel safe and loved in that environment. Generations of Central City residents learned to swim and play basketball at the Dryades Y. Though Singleton Charter might have always been underperforming, it’s their school for their kids. 

Many of the students at Singleton Charter probably wouldn’t be welcomed at Hines, Lusher or Baby Ben. They would be considered “problem” students whose low test scores would bring down the overall average. They might need extra help in reading or math. They might have emotional problems, suffer from food insecurity, reside in a household without adequate adult supervision. 

If the Orleans Parish School Board decides later this week to allow Singleton Charter to remain open, it could be a political decision, and perhaps not in the best interest of the students’ educational future. The questions remains – will the Singleton Charter students attain better long-term career success if they attended a school with higher test scores?

In a prepared statement, NOLA-PS spokesperson Taslin Alfonzo said, “The academic and emotional well-being of our students remains our top priority. To that end, NOLA Public Schools is working with the Dryades YMCA via mediation. NOLA-PS does not have a comment at this time (regarding whether Singleton Charter will close) as the mediation remains ongoing.”

Every student has the capacity to learn. It’s a teacher’s responsibility to reach students “where they are.” If NOLA-PS wants to keep Singleton Charter open, they should devote the resources and manpower necessary so that the kids can grow into well-educated adults prepared for the job market and life ahead. All New Orleans students – regardless of ethnicity or neighborhood – deserve the best our education system has to offer.     

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