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New Orleans Parents' Petition To Save School From Closing Hits Roadblock

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New Orleans parents hoping to use Louisiana's so-called "reverse trigger law" to save Sarah T. Reed High School from closing discovered that the parent-petition law does not apply to city schools taken over by the state after Hurricane Katrina. 

Community groups launched the petition drive during a Dec. 9 rally in front of the school, according to an article in the Times-Picayune. The Recovery School District, which was formed by the state to take over struggling schools, oversees the operation of Reed High School. The Orleans Parish School Board controls roughly one-quarter of the city's schools. The local board has filed a lawsuit seeking to control all New Orleans public schools.

The "reverse parent trigger" law, which was signed in June, allows parents to petition to return a state-takeover school to local control if the school has failed to improve its accountability grade above a D in five years and has not been transformed into a charter. (Only 15 of the Recovery School District's 74 schools are not charters.) While Reed High—which is not a charter school—meets the academic criteria, the narrowly-worded law does not apply to schools that were seized by the state immediately following Hurricane Katrina.  

Meanwhile, Louisiana also has a "parent trigger" law that allows parents to petition to shift failing traditional public schools into the state-run Recovery School District.

Which schools are eligible for the reverse-trigger law has caused confusion and frustration among Reed High School's supporters.

"Who is eligible for this bill? And if no one is eligible, why did they have it?" Cyndi Nguyen, of Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training, said in the article. Nguyen is working on a fourth charter application to take over the school.

"This is where I want to send my child to go to school," Cristi Wijngaarde, who lives across the street from Reed High School, told the newspaper during the rally. Instead, her daughter attends a school across town: "She's still not home, and it's nighttime. ... It's not a failing school. It's a failing system that set up this school."

Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard told the Times-Picayune that a school in Reed High School's area of east New Orleans would be needed in the future. Today, however, he said the city has enough or even too many high school seats to serve its public-school students. Reed High School is scheduled to close in 2015.

Reed alumnus Myron Miller told the newspaper that saving his alma mater is the key to realizing his future goal. The Southern University at New Orleans education and business major said that after he earns his degree: "I'm going to be the principal of Sarah T. Reed." 

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