reports from a local parent monitoring public education in New Orleans

On charter school rally day in Baton Rouge, another perspective from the ground

In April of 2007, I sent out an email to education and community leaders raising big-picture charter school accountability concerns. In Fall 2007, Paul Pastorek directed his newly hired State Director of Charter Schools, to meet with me and review my research. After a several hours meeting and frank discussion, Mr. Campbell politely but firmly told me that although he agreed that it appeared that many charters had been issued inappropriately and perhaps with many conflicts they are staying in place “because they are here now.”

He said maybe when they come up for review in a few years they would be modified or yanked, and in the meanwhile, we could help the State by keeping them accountable, except there’s no mechanism to do that. The State is working on it and they will let us know when we can do it.

I haven’t heard from them since.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Amelia L
Date: Thu, Apr 5, 2007 at 2:53 AM

Dear Honorable Legislators, Friends, and Neighbors,

Yesterday I wrote you regarding McDonogh 28 facility issues. In the past few months, I have tried to develop a relationship with the governing board of New Orleans Charter School Foundation, our chartering body. I have repeatedly requested through the Principal and the management company, The Leona Group, to allow me to get in contact with the board and have been assured by both that the Board Director and Board Attorney would call me instead, but neither ever has. The Principal and Leona Group rep have coordinated with me to work on the facility issue, but no-one from RSD or the school notified me that a site walk was held this morning although I repeatedly requested to both entities to be included in the site walk. I was told about this event today after the fact by Councilwoman Midura who said she drove by this morning and saw the activity. Thus my attempts to contact and work with this board have failed. They are not acting with transparency. Despite my repeated friendly requests I have not been given information about when and where the board meets or how to contact any of them. Instead I have been repeatedly told they would call me back and they have not. Today this led me back to the Louisiana Secretary of State Corporations Database to look up the non-profit New Orleans Charter Schools Foundation to see who was on the board and try to contact them directly. What I found has so concerned me that I feel this revelation indicates there is no integrity in the system whatsoever. All charter issuances should be immediately halted until they can all be publicly examined.

I will give you my specific concern about New Orleans Charter School Foundation and the Leona Group, and then I am asking you to join me in asking questions about the four charter scenarios I will describe which I am aware of which constitute a big-picture issue which I submit lies at the heart of our continuing desperation. What we have is outsiders arbitrarily deciding our fates for profit, and self-appointed boards acquiring public property behind closed doors. This is at the direct, violent expense of our entire community. Something must be done.

New Orleans Charter School Foundation and The Leona Group: in a nutshell, the President and Director of the non-profit organization, Michael Malone, “is responsible for Midwest operations as Leona Group executive vice president”, the Education Management Company hired by the non-profit to manage the school. He is both the employer and employee. He is definitely not a New Orleanian. In fact, there are no New Orleans residents in their 3-member board. Since this school has no apparent governance connection to my community and is clearly in it for the business, why should I invest my resources into their failing effort across town? I care very much about all the children in the city and I feel that my personal resources are better used informing you of what I have been observing than trying to change the dynamic at the school. The problem is, now I don’t know what to do about it. I certainly will not return my child to school there, as it is both illegitimate and dangerous. I have until the end of Easter vacation I guess to resolve what I will do with him next. I am hoping to find a church group that will take him and provide a safe place for him during the day. Anybody want to tutor a 7 year old? He’s very sweet! He won’t be forever if he keeps getting beat on at school though. I can’t keep sending him to a place that is hurting more than helping, and I am frankly tired of having to analyze this so often regarding our schools.

The following items give anecdotal evidence to illustrate to our legislators how local communities have been directed that they can only receive charters if they partner with out of town national education management companies. NASCA is the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, contracted by LA Dept. Ed. (LDE) to process applications and now monitor the charters. NASCA is a membership organization and it appears they awarded charters predominantly, almost exclusively, to groups that are their members and sponsors. Many state employees and contractors said as we were going through the charter process that charter groups were only going to be awarded to groups with proven successes outside Louisiana. This discriminatory policy naturally eliminated all Louisiana education professionals, stakeholders, and expertise, and it also eliminated the opportunity for local self-reliance through community- based school initiatives. It was another word-of-mouth type policy. The effect is that the intent of the charter law was not followed. Innovation and community participation were eliminated, not incubated. Successful practices are not shared, they are trade secrets. Our population is kept unstable by constantly changing school situations. We need stability and a great deal of work has been done on the local level to move us toward healthy communities, however the RSD has shunned our approaches until very recently. The way to prove the trend of what happened is to ask how did the 4 individual local non-profit board members of newly formed charter organizations each separately become introduced to their national corporate partner? How did they meet, who introduced them? I suggest we ask this question regarding each of the 4 below. This will also show who is making money on the charter schools, where it is going, and what we are getting for it.

1. New Orleans Charter School Foundation and The Leona Group of Michigan: Matthew Proctor of Metairie former NOPS Interim Superintendent and now non-profit Board Co-Director, Vice President and Secretary; and from the Leona Group- Michael Malone and Raymond Grant (sic), the other 2 named non-profit board members who both live in suburban Michigan. Michael Malone is President and Direct of the non-profit board, and Gant is Executive Vice President responsible for Midwest Operations for the for-profit management company.

2. Choice Foundation at Lafayette School and Mosaica Management company: in the Center for Community Change’s update report on our schools, it says, “As James M. Huger, the chairman of Lafayette Academy charter school so precisely put it in an article in the Atlantic Monthly in January 2007, ‘I’m a real-estate developer; I don’t know the first thing about running a school.’ Huger promised prospective parents ‘a great product.’ He hired the for-profit Mosaica Education Inc. to deliver that product.” Now we have experienced here on the ground that this school is in terrible shape. Everyone knows this, it’s a scandal waiting to be exposed. How did Mr. Huger come to form the Choice Foundation, who advised him, who are the current board members, and how did they come to hire the Mosaica company?

3. Ben Kleban and Hal Brown:
New Orleans College Preparatory Academies, Inc, a non-profit formed 11/06, includes 3 named Board members, Ben Kleban, Hal Brown and Barabra Campbell Macphee. I don’t know one iota about Ms. Macphee. Hal Brown is a Faubourg St. John neighbor of mine who returned just before Katrina to do small-scale real estate development. He and I occasionally talked about the charter applications during the process, and while I encouraged him to meet with the neighborhood organizations as an applicant, he declined and kept his plans off the radar. It is completely inappropriate for Ben Kleban to receive a charter school from NASCA. Until only a few months prior to his application as a non-profit board member, he was a staff charter application reviewer for NACSA. He was in the panel that interviewed MCNO for our first-round application for Dibert, and he is the one who said he was just flown in for the day to do interviews, hadn’t read our application, and didn’t know what PTSD and various education terms were. He is a youngish man with no familiarity with New Orleans. How did Hal Brown and Ben Kleban meet and come to work together? I don’t know if they have hired a management company, and I don’t know what if any facility they’ve been assigned.

4. Broadmoor Neighborhood Organization and Edison-
Broadmoor like many communities has rich education resources within their own neighborhood and so decided to charter a school. Unlike other communities such as Mid-City and the Vietnamese community in N.O. East, Broadmoor’s charter application was approved. All 3 communities set representatives to each charter help session in Baton Rouge, and each are confident in the quality of their submission. The difference? Broadmoor’s for-profit Education Management Company is Edison Schools, who was NASCA’s 2006 Platinum Conference Sponsor.

Every applicant I’ve asked said ‘yes, we were told we had to have a company to get a charter. The company had to have prior successes outside Louisiana because no one had been successful here before.’ That is the type of thing frequently said by LDE to New Orleanians throughout this process.

Local stakeholders have been systematically alienated from our own community schools at a crucial time in our history when our involvement is more needed than ever. I have taken time to document these events in hopes you can use the information to bring relief to our people. Please let me know how I can be of assistance to your actions now and in the future.

Thank you for your time and concern.

Amy Lafont
Louisiana Secretary of State
Detailed Record

Charter/Organization ID: 36135841N


Type Entity: Non-Profit Corporation

Status: Active

Annual Report Status: Not In Good Standing for failure to file current Annual Report

2007 Annual Report is required at this time Print Annual Report Form For Filing

Mailing Address: C/O EDWARD J. RANTZ, 1100 POYDRAS STREET, SUITE 3600, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70163-3600

Domicile Address: 1100 POYDRAS STREET, SUITE 3600, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70163-3600

File Date: 03/10/2006

Registered Agent (Appointed 3/10/2006): EDWARD J. RANTZ, 1100 POYDRAS STREET, SUITE 3600, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70163-3600




Vice President: MATTHEW PROCTOR, 2600 HOUMA BLVD., APT. 906, METAIRIE, LA 70001

Secretary: MATTHEW PROCTOR, 2600 HOUMA BLVD., APT. 906, METAIRIE, LA 70001


Additional officers may exist on document

2. Leona Group, LLC — The Executive Team – [Cached]
Published on: 1/28/2006 Last Visited: 1/28/2006

Michael Malone – Executive Vice President

Michael Malone Mike is responsible for Midwest operations as Leona Group executive vice president. He also serves as president of The Leona Group charter schools board in Ohio and on the board of directors of Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA). He brings more than 25 years of executive management experience in both the private and public sectors to his position. His background includes leadership roles in an international energy corporation and an agriculture bank, as well as with major urban school systems in Alaska and Indiana. Mike received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska – Omaha. He completed graduate coursework in organizational development at Pepperdine University.

Raymond Gant’s Experience

  • Vice President

    The Leona Group

    (Education Management industry)

    Currently holds this position

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