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Intersession tests draw concern; hours on new ID card aim to boost attendance rate

Intersession results from two schools and a second-quarter drop in attendance at another prompted questions from ReNEW’s board as they met on Nov. 10 to discuss the charter schools they supervise.

ReNEW’s Executive Director Gary Robichaux presented Batiste Cultural Arts Academy’s and SciTech Academy’s intersession results to the board.  The two-week period that ended Oct. 6 was a break for most students, but some used the time for  remedial classes.  The students were tested at the end of the first week and again at the end of the session. During this intersession, scores generally improved in English and language arts (ELA) but dropped in math. Robichaux told the board that the results would be used for further evaluation of the students and teachers.

Attendance at the Westbank campus of the Accelerated High School dropped from 92 percent in the first quarter to 74 percent in the second quarter.  Colleen Mackay, ReNEW’s director of human capital and development, suggested two possible contributing factors.  She said 20 percent of the students at that campus have children, and the school does not offer on-site daycare, though they hope to next year.  Additionally, police have picked up some students for truancy because classes begin a half-hour later than most RSD schools. To curb the problem, ReNEW will be listing school hours on newly issued student identification cards.

The three elementary schools had attendance above 92 percent during both quarters, but attendance at the City Park campus dropped from 89 percent to 81 percent, the board learned.

Robichaux said staff cutbacks in the charters’ third year will likely fall on AmeriCorps positions and some of the higher-salaried deans and behavior specialists that were necessary for school turnarounds.

In other financial news, the board learned that enrollment across ReNEW schools was about 150 students fewer than projected, and that the budget has been adjusted accordingly. Finance committee chair Sandra Cahill expects the audit to be ready by the board’s Dec. 1 meeting.

Board secretary Brian Weimer introduced new software the board will be using to communicate internally, called BoardOnTrack through The High Bar.  The High Bar also offers BoardSavvy, which is described by its manufacturers as a “training institute, virtual coach and interactive charter school governance encyclopedia.”  The program offers online tutorials and access to information to help increase board members’ knowledge of the laws and procedures that apply to charter school governance.  (The programs can be seen here http://www.reachthehighbar.com/tour/boardontracktour.html and http://www.reachthehighbar.com/tour/boardsavvytour.html).

The board held a 10-minute executive session, a retreat into a discussion from which the public was barred. Weimer cited La. R.S. 42:17, which allows closed sessions  regarding “litigation when an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the bargaining or litigating position of the public body.”

After the executive session the board approved a motion authorizing member Carol Asher to negotiate attorney fees for the pending litigation. Kathy Conklin was the sole vote opposing the motion.

The board also approved the October minutes.

Board members present were Asher, Weimer, Cahill, Conklin, Mary Brown, Amy Knower, Derrick Rogers, Sharon Courtney and Greg Harris. Board members absent were Jim Dukes, Essence Harris, Martin Feibelman, Randy Roig, and Donald Herry.

The meeting began at 5:47 p.m. and adjourned at 7:15 p.m.

 

The next board meeting will be Dec. 8 at 5:30 p.m. at Carol Asher’s home.

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