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Parent interest delays vote on school leader

After hearing from a crowd of parents and some students, the board that manages Sci High postponed a vote to choose a new school leader last week, saying they want to allow more time for comment and community feedback.

The board also heard a monthly financial report that was described as “bleak” because of unexpected expenses.

The board of Advocates for Math and Science Education met at the school Oct. 20, with a crowd of parent and faculty members in the audience. Current Head of School Barbara MacPhee will be retiring from her role at Sci High, and the board is in the process of filling the position.

Because so many parents attended, the board voted to move up the meeting time allowed for general public comment, and it became the first thing on the agenda.

The board decided to put off the vote on hiring a new school leader, though it did not set a date. The board is accepting community comment until it makes a decision.

Many parents voiced concern with the communication, administration-to-student relationships and discipline policies at Sci High.

Christopher Kennedy, a senior at the school, said there is “dysfunction” between teachers and administrators and a serious lack of “togetherness and unity” on campus. He beseeched the board to bring in an administrator who would bring the students, faculty and administration together.

After another student approached the board about her concerns with the dress-code policy, the board members encouraged the students to meet first with administrators at the school to resolve their issues. Board members said they appreciated that the students had the courage to speak up, but their consensus was that these issues should be handled on campus, by the school leadership or student government, before being brought to the board.

The parent liaison team is working on a student and parent report to present to the administration regarding dissatisfaction with the current dress code.

According to the financial report presented to the board, Sci High has overspent in nearly every category so far this year.

Due to unforeseen expenses that have come up recently – including a broken freezer and an obligation to provide RTA tokens and passes to students – the treasurer deemed the financial statements of this month “mighty bleak.” MacPhee urged the board to find a way to make up that money, and board members said they are committed to doing so, though they offered no specifics.

The board also adopted a budget for the current academic year with little discussion.

In an effort to boost enrollment in what MacPhee called the “competitive market” of New Orleans charter schools, Sci High will be holding three recruitment events to draw students for the 2012-13 school year. First, prospective eighth graders will be invited to visit campus on select dates during the school day and attend classes with a Sci High student ambassador. Second, Sci High teachers and administration will hold recruitment presentations at local feeder junior high schools to meet with potential parents and students. And lastly, Sci High will hold an admissions open house on Nov. 3 at 6:30 p.m.

The enrollment on Oct. 1 was 373, but MacPhee said the school must increase enrollment to stay financially healthy and viable.

The school is working on programs to increase retention and attract new students. The board is looking at all possibilities to achieve this, including providing busing to students, which MacPhee said is “enormously important.”

The school is also continuing to work on rewarding positive student behavior and building up a safe and community-oriented campus climate.

The meeting closed with an executive session where the board met privately to discuss discussed matters concerning the appointment of a new Head of School.

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