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International High School gets new board chairperson, not likely to purchase school building

The president of the charter school management organization that runs International High School led his last meeting as president on June 27.

Andrew Ward  kicked off the meeting by reaffirming what the board learned at its annual retreat, held on May 26. Ward said, “Our purpose here is not to manage a good board. Our purpose is to govern an exceptional school.”

Ward reiterated the school’s five-year vision to correct fundraising mistakes and to further community engagement efforts. He reaffirmed the goal of setting up boarding facilities to house students from all over the state and to build a gymnasium for the school.

The governing board’s plans to buy the school’s current location will likely go unfulfilled as Orleans Parish has expressed interested in selling the space for condominium development, according to board members. While the market value of the immediate surrounding buildings seems to price the school at $2.2 million, an appraisal by the Parish suggested that the price should be about $4.4 million, putting it outside of the organization’s budget. Board members expressed an interest in having the site appraised again.

The charter management organization also set a goal of having its charter approved through 2025.

Ward noted several key improvements that had been made in the two years since his appointment and said that while he found the role of board chairman was a positive, rewarding experience, he looks forward to passing the gavel to Karen Dwyer, who has previously served as board president.

As of June 27, the school has an enrollment of 454  for the 2012-2013 school year, which exceeds the board’s goal of 450. Further enrollment may come in July and August, which are typically busy months for parents and students to choose schools.

International High School will see its first class of seniors at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. The school has thus moved to institute a mandatory period for ACT preparations in seniors’ schedules.

Only 73 of the school’s 97 seniors have met the state test score requirements needed to graduate; therefore, board members said, it is clear that much more work must be done to prepare these students in a very short amount of time.

Overall, the school is not meeting its academic goals. Fewer than 80 percent of students have been able to pass end-of-course tests. The board set a goal to meet an 80-percent standard by the end of the next school year but stressed that this goal would not threaten the commitment to open enrollment.

The board voted to accept the proposed 2012-2013 budget. The public budget meetings were advertised in the Times Picayune and on the school’s website and took place without much feedback from the community.

Fundraising remains a high priority for the board, which announced that it had received $15,000 as payment for being used as a filming location and an additional $25,000 from the nation of Qatar in a grant to develop an Arabic language program.

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