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STEP tests predict LEAP results; Frantz School move to honor civil rights icon Ruby Bridges

At their monthly meeting, on April 2, the board of Benjamin E. Mays Preparatory School discussed projected LEAP test scores and was updated on the planned move into the building formerly occupied by Frantz Elementary.

Principal Shanda Gentry informed the board that the school is currently in Cycle 4 of STEP (Strategic Teaching and Evaluation of Progress) assessments. There are five STEP cycles, and each provides a projection estimating how students will perform on the state’s high-stakes LEAP test.

STEP data is divided into results for math and English language, which can be compared with results from schools throughout the state and the nation who utilize the program.

“It takes us a minute to see growth, but the kids that have been with us from the beginning are now at testing age, and we can see the positive trends in their scores,” Gentry said.

She also attributed positive results to the Recovery School District’s newly centralized application process, called OneApp. For example, the pre-kindergarten is already full for next year and, with 20 students, kindergarten is nearly full.

“OneApp has been helpful,” Gentry said. “We’ll start getting rosters at the end of April-which is great. Now we can make real projections on enrollment earlier than before.”

Gentry also briefed the board on her plan to select a group of fourth- and fifth-grade boys to participate in a “boys night out.” She said she will select students who are the sole males in their households, a group that typically has a challenge accepting discipline.

The boys will be paired with a male staff or board member, and the group will attend an upcoming New Orleans Hornets basketball game. The goal is to build rapport between each boy and an adult male he can look up to.

The building and grounds committee gave a progress report on the school’s pending move into the Frantz Elementary building.

Committee member Todd James said that at a recent meeting with RSD he was told substantial completion is still set for October, but is more likely to be November or  December.

The board expressed frustration at the lack of an updated cost projection for the Frantz renovation. The early numbers from the RSD put costs at $1 per square foot.

“We’re not really getting the one thing we want an answer on,” board member Sidney Barthelemy said.

James added, “We’re headed in the right direction, we just need to have better financial information provided.”

Gentry discussed detailed plans to honor Ruby Bridges within the new building. In 1960, Bridges, then 6, endured a screaming, spitting segregationist mob to enroll in Frantz Elementary, becoming the first African-American to integrate an elementary school in New Orleans.

When FEMA contributed money to the building’s renovation, it stipulated that a classroom be set up to look as it would have in 1960. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Gentry said the special classroom would be used for the Read to Lead program, and will have old fashioned school desks, rocking chairs, and a plaque dedicating the space to Ms. Bridges.

Gentry noted that Bridges would be invited to participate in the events at the school’s opening, and board members expressed the hope that a relationship with Bridges would result.

Gentry said her hope is that on the day the school moves to the new building, students and faculty will gather at the current building and then proceed to Frantz. “It will be very special if we can all arrive as a group,” Gentry said.

The following board members were in attendance, Brent Washington, Damon Burns, Kristen Ponthier, Jenny Hunter, Todd James, Sidney Barthelemy, and Shanda Gentry. The meeting ran from 5:45 p.m.- 6:45 p.m.

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