- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A committee with strong representation from charter schools was named Thursday help guide the transition of more than 50 state-controlled public schools back into the fold of New Orleans’ school board.

Orleans Parish Schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis and state Recovery School District Patrick Dobard assembled the 13-member panel and will serve as members, as specified in recently approved legislation calling for the Orleans board to regain governance of the schools as early as mid-2018.

Most New Orleans schools were taken over by the state after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. All of the state-controlled schools are now independently run charter schools. The schools have improved measurably, although slowly and unevenly, and many legislators wanted assurances that the charters would maintain their autonomy under the local board.

Under the legislation the state’s authority to revoke or renew charters will transfer to the local board. That board oversees 18 schools now, 12 of them charters.

Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the bill during a Thursday afternoon ceremony in Baton Rouge.

Edwards praised lawmakers for reaching compromises on how and when to return the schools, resulting in passage of the bill by state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans.

“I served on the House Education Committee for a year,” said Edwards, a former lawmaker. “I know how contentious this issue is.”

As provided in the bill, the panel announced Thursday is heavy with representatives of charter organizations or charter schools. It also includes a representative from a civil rights organization and a New Orleans nonprofit that studies education issues.

The committee members are:

-Henderson Lewis, the superintendent of Orleans Parish Public Schools since March 2015, who said returning all public schools to local oversight has been a major goal.

-Patrick Dobard, superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District, which assumes oversight of local schools around the state that are deemed failing. The RSD currently oversees 52 public schools in New Orleans, all of them run by organizations granted a charter by the RSD.

- Jay Altman, CEO of FirstLine Schools, a charter management agency.

- Kelly Batiste, CEO and principal of Fannie C. Williams Charter School.

- Deirdre Johnson Burel, executive director of the nonprofit education advocacy group Orleans Public Education Network.

- Sharon Clark, an administrator with Sophie B. Wright Charter School.

- Doris Roche Hicks, CEO and principal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School, one of the few schools that had already moved back to local control.

- Rhonda Kalifey-Aluise, who oversees 10 charters as the CEO of KIPP New Orleans Schools.

- Rene Lewis-Carter, CEO of the Algiers Charter School Association, a network of six charters.

- Nicolette London, an administrator dealing with grants and federal programs at the Orleans Parish School Board.

- Erika-McConduit-Diggs, CEO of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans.

- Jamar McKneely, CEO of InspireNOLA, which manages three charter schools.

- Alexina Medley, principal and CEO of Warren Easton Charter High School.

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