Appeals court upholds closure of Excellence Academy

   A Louisiana appeals court has upheld the decision of the Monroe City School Board to close Excellence Academy Charter School.

  The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Shreveport, Wednesday affirmed a decision by 4th District Court Judge Scott Leehy that the Monroe City School Board exercised its right not to grant a 5th year to the school, which was operated by Tab-N-Action, Inc.

  At issue was two state laws that gave conflicting directions concerning extending 5th years to charter schools. One law, R.S 17:3992 says the district had a right to review the school’s operation and has the option of granting a 5th year. However, another law, R.S. 17:3998 says that if the school is performing according to its contract it “Shall” be granted its fifth year.

Judge Leehy said the conflicts would have to be addressed by the state legislature, but since the board followed R.S. 17:3992 it was within its right to close the school.

 The Appeals court said, “Although the school met the MSCB standard for academic performance, TenSquare concluded that the Excellence Academy did not meet the standard for financial or organization performance.”

  The TenSquare report said the school met academic standards. It ranked number two of the district’s four middle schools. However, TenSquare reported that the school didn’t post all of its minutes on its website, didn’t have regular board meetings and Roosevelt Wright, the school’s founder, was also the “owner” of the Tabernacle Baptist Church which leased space to the school posing a possible ethical conflict.

  The school board never questioned whether the report was accurate, but accepted it without comment. It paid $27,000 for the report. Court testimony revealed that TenSquare never interviewed any Excellence Board members, reviewed its documentations or interviewed Wright in its 90 minute one time visit. Testimony showed that the Excellence Board never missed a scheduled meeting and had valid signed minutes of all meeting.

 In oral arguments before the 2nd Circuit School Board attorney Jon Guice told the court that the school board closed the school because Roosevelt Wright, Jr. was the Pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church and also served as the principal of Excellence Academy and served as a voting board member of the Excellence School Board. Faced with those ethical conflicts the district had no choice but to close the school which was its right under RS:17:3992.

 The school, through its attorneys, Jim Roundtree and Anthony Bruscato, argued that Wright has never served as principal of Excellence Academy or served as a member of its board of directors. The school board’s claim was the subject of a year-long investigation of the State Ethics Board which decided in February of this year not to bring any charges against Wright or his family members in response to the school board’s claims.

 Without dealing with the merits of the case, the Appeals Court said, “there was no abuse of discretion by the trial court, which not only correctly applied the statutory law as mandated for the Title 1 charter school, but also properly interpreted the charter agreement terms.”

 The ruling did not address the conflicting state statutes, which was the subject of the appeal.