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Franklin High principal to get evaluated by board annually

Editor’s note: With more than three dozen charter schools in New Orleans, each run by its own board, a news organization would have to cover more than three dozen school board meetings to get a full understanding of how all schools are operating. We’ve not seen any media outlets willing or able to do that, so The Lens is stepping into the breach. This coverage is from the first meeting after we decided on our new initiative. In the future, we hope to post as many board meeting notices as possible, as well as the agendas.

After four years as a charter school separate from the city’s beleaguered system, Benjamin Franklin High School’s leaders on Thursday fell into compliance with a state law that requires the principal to be evaluated.

“They have never had an evaluation process before,” said John Parauka, a social studies teacher at Benjamin Franklin for 14 years. “It is in the charter, but they have never got around to it.”

Parauka was in the audience as Franklin’s board, Advocates of Academic Excellence in Education, approved the evaluation process for Principal and CEO Timothy Rusnak.

State law requires that every charter school employee be evaluated, but Franklin never had such an assessment in place for its top employee.

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Franklin has long been the city’s top-performing school.

The evaluation will assess the CEO’s performance in relation to his job description, the school’s charter, the school’s strategic plan, and board-established goals that the board and CEO will agree upon before each school year.

The board’s evaluation process relies heavily on recommendations from a number of sources, including academic advocacy organization New Schools For New Orleans, boards from Isidore Newman School and Metairie Park Country Day School, as well as from other charter schools, board member Mark Mayer said at the meeting. A subcommittee will evaluate Rusnak at the end of each school year, give recommendations, and set annual goals for next year. The subcommittee will also conduct a mid-year check in with the CEO to ensure progress toward goals.

The board elected the subcommittee Thursday, choosing board members Carl Indest, Joia Crear-Perry and Patricia Adams to head evaluations. The new subcommittee will evaluate Rusnak’s 2009-2010 performance and offer feedback immediately, Adams said. The committee consists of board members only to increase expediency of the feedback for Rusnak, she said. According to the evaluation process documents issued to The Lens, faculty and staff will be added to next year’s committee.

Paruaka, who said he has regularly attended the board’s meetings since its inception, said that the board may have had a CEO review in 2007, but it was never an outlined process.

“They just reviewed the principal and found that most of what she did was fine,” he said.

The Louisiana Legislature requires that each school have a manner in which all employees are evaluated.

The CEO’s evaluation process comes almost a year after Franklin was placed on probation for financial issues. Since that time, the school has hired chief financial officer Larry Baudoin, replacing former CFO Susan Andrews.

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