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Tab-N-Action, Inc. v. Monroe City School Board

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

May 24, 2017

TAB-N-ACTION, INC.
v.
MONROE CITY SCHOOL BOARD

          KAREN L. HAYES, MAG. JUDGE

          RULING

          ROBERT G. JAMES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On April 25, 2017, Plaintiff Tab-N-Action, Inc., d/b/a Excellence Academy (hereinafter “Excellence Academy”) filed a verified Complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the Monroe City School Board (“MCSB”). [Doc. No. 1]. Excellence Academy moves the Court for a preliminary injunction “prohibiting [MCSB] from revoking [Excellence Academy's] charter without compliance with La. Admin. Code[, Title] 28[, Part] CXXXIX [§] 1703” and a declaratory judgment that Excellence Academy “has complied with its obligations under the charter contract with the [MCSB] and the requirements of Louisiana statutes and regulations.”[1] [Doc. No. 1, ¶¶ 24 & 28].

         On May 17, 2017, Excellence Academy filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order (“Motion for TRO”) [Doc. No. 6] contending that MCSB should be prohibited “from executing its plan or taking any action to close Excellence Academy before there has been notice and an opportunity for hearing on [MCSB's] decision to discontinue funding Excellence Academy in violation of the contract . . . and the constitutional requirement of due process . . . .” MCSB filed a memorandum in opposition to Excellence Academy's Motion for TRO and motion for preliminary injunction. [Doc. No. 12].

         Excellence Academy filed a supplemental memorandum. [Doc. No. 10].

         On May 23, 2017, the Court conducted an evidentiary hearing, hearing testimony from the parties' witnesses, received evidence, and heard oral argument from counsel.

         After consideration of the entire record presented, for the following reasons, Excellence Academy's request for preliminary injunctive relief is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and its Motion for TRO is DENIED AS MOOT.

         I. FINDINGS OF FACT

         The Court finds the following facts to be established.

         Plaintiff Tab-N-Action, Inc., operates a Type 1 charter school in Monroe, Louisiana, under the name Excellence Academy. Type 1 charter schools are authorized by the local school board, which, in this case, is MCSB.

         Excellence Academy is a middle school serving grades 6-8 and began operation in the 2013-2014 school year.

         MCSB contracted with TenSquare, LLC (“TenSquare”)[2] in January 2017 to conduct a charter contract extension review of Excellence Academy as provided for under Louisiana Revised Statutes §§ 17:3992(A)(1) and 17:3998 and Louisiana Administrative Code §§ 1301 and 1303.

         On or about February 14, 2017, TenSquare representatives, Kathleen Padian and Sarah Morgan Ripski, visited Excellence Academy, met with the principal, toured the school, and observed in the classrooms. The reviewers attempted to attend a Board meeting the day before touring the school, but the meeting was cancelled. They were also unable to meet with the Executive Director, Roosevelt Wright (“Wright”). According to Wright, he was in the building, but not present because they arrived earlier than anticipated, and they declined the principal's offer to contact him.

         On April 5, 2017, TenSquare prepared a report to the MCSB, recommending that its contract with Excellence Academy not be extended for a fifth year based on its determination that the school was unsatisfactory in certain areas.

         On April 6, 2017, Dr. Brent Vidrine, Monroe City Superintendent, sent a letter to Regina Millican at Excellence Academy, notifying her the results of TenSquare's evaluation “may” be on the agenda for the MCSB meeting on April 11, 2017. [Exhibit P-3]. An official copy of the TenSquare report was not provided to the school until the day before the meeting, although a MCSB member had given the school a copy a day or two earlier. Excellence Academy Representatives Wright, Chairman/President Charter School Board of Directors Robert Tanzie, Robert Wright, Jackie Johnson, and the school's accountant/bookkeeper, Rosie Harper, were all present at the meeting. When this item was presented on the agenda, MCSB went into Executive Session. After the members returned, they voted 5-2 not to extend the charter for the fifth year.[3]

         The representatives were not invited to speak or asked to respond to the report, either before or after the Executive Session. All members of the public can speak on items on the agenda, but they must sign a list. Each person who signs the list has 3 minutes to speak on the agenda item. None of the Excellence Academy representatives signed the list and, therefore, were not permitted to speak.

         In an April 24, 2017 letter to Dr. Vidrine, Wright addressed Excellence Academy's disappointment and dissatisfaction with MCSB's reliance on the TenSquare report without allowing the school representatives to respond and provided a copy of the report with the school's response to each area of concern. The parties dispute whether Ten Square used the proper rubric for its evaluation of the school.[4] However, Dr. Vidrine and/or MCSB[5] declined to reconsider, and no hearing was held to allow Excellence Academy to present evidence of its compliance with the charter agreements and state requirements.

         After MCSB declined to extend Excellence Academy's charter, Dr. Vidrine sent a letter to the parents of Excellence Academy students stating that the school is closing and that they need to make other arrangements by June 30, 2017.[6] [Exhibit P-7].

         II. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         The Court makes the following conclusions of law.

         In determining whether to grant or deny a preliminary injunction, the Court applies a four-part test:

(1) a substantial likelihood that plaintiff will prevail on the merits;
(2) a substantial threat that plaintiff will suffer irreparable injury if the ...

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