Appeals court affirms Monroe City Schools decision to close charter school

By Elizabeth Alt | May 31, 2018

The Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal issued a decision affirming a Fourth Judicial District Court for Ouachita Parish ruling that the Monroe City School Board (MCSB) had not erred in its decision to close Excellence Academy charter school.

SHREVEPORT – The Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal issued a decision affirming a Fourth Judicial District Court for Ouachita Parish ruling that the Monroe City School Board (MCSB) had not erred in its decision to close Excellence Academy charter school.

Judge Shonda D. Stone, with Judges James A. “Jimbo” Stephens and Jay B. McCallum on the panel, wrote the order on May 23 finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in interpreting and applying the statutory law in Excellence’s appeal of the trial court’s ruling in Monroe’s favor.

“We find no error in the trial court’s determination that the MCSB operated within its discretion in not extending the school’s charter for the optional fifth year,” the appeals court order said.

Excellence opened their charter school for sixth through eighth grades in Monroe for the 2013-14 school year. In April 2017, the Monroe City School Board conducted a review of Excellence through a third party per the charter school agreement. The review recommended that “Excellence Academy’s charter not be extended for a fifth year based on unsatisfactory findings in the financial and organizational areas,” according to court documents. The school board’s policy for extending or renewing a contract with a charter school is based on “academic, financial, and organizational performance data.” The school board voted not to extend the charter school in June 2017.

In their petition, Excellence requested that the school board be mandated to extend Excellence for a fifth year, arguing that the board used the stricter of Louisiana’s two charter school statutes in its decision and relied on a third-party report. The Fourth District Court sustained the board's exceptions of improper cumulation of actions, dismissed Excellence’s claim for damages without prejudice, “exception of no cause of action for mandamus” and dismissed the petition with prejudice. Excellence filed an amended petition to assert a specific claim, and the court granted MCSB’s motion for involuntary dismissal.

Excellence appealed the ruling, claiming the charter should be extended another year because they were meeting the objectives and goals.

Judge Stephens noted that although Excellence had met the academic standard, the review found that they had failed to meet the other two standards of the school board’s policy. The court stated that the statute’s language is clear, and the board had no obligation to extend the charter under the agreement both parties entered.

Stephens pointed out that Excellence’s charter extension was reviewed twice by the school board, and that “Excellence Academy had a third bite at the apple with the trial court.”

The trial court ruling was affirmed, and costs of the appeal assigned to Excellence.

Monroe City School Board is represented by Anthony J. Bruscato of the Law Offices of Anthony J. Bruscato, James A. Rountree of Rountree Law Offices and  Eddie M. Clark of Eddie M. Clark Law & Associates LLP.

Excellence Academy is represented by L. Douglas Lawrence of The Lawrence Law Firm LLC and Jon K. Guice, Justin N. Myers, and Tyrell T. Manieri III of Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice

Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal, Case Number 51,969-CA

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