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Board discusses enrollment boost, new hires and LEAP prep classes

Enrollment numbers came in much higher than expected at McDonogh City Park Academy, Principal Christine Mitchell announced at the board’s October 16 monthly meeting. The current enrollment of  420 marks the highest total since New Orleans Charter School Foundation took over the school, according to Mitchell.

The projected budget for the 2012-2013 school-year was based on a student enrollment of 400.

Due to increased student numbers, the school is in the process of hiring additional tutors to provide  individual instruction. Mitchell said the increased enrollment was spread evenly over all grade levels and did not warrant the hiring of additional teachers.

The school did hire two new teachers in recent weeks to replace two Teach for America instructors that resigned early in the academic year. Carla Mason will teach mathematics teacher to fifth and sixth graders, while Brandy Thomas will teach them science. Both teachers are veterans of New Orleans public schools, according to Mitchell.

According to board president Mary Kay Parker, the resignations were due to lack of preparation on the part of Teach for America.

“I was able to meet with local Teach for America directors concerning the resignation of these teachers,” Parker said. “They admitted that the teachers we hired had not been properly vetted during their training and were not prepared to handle certain circumstances in New Orleans schools.”

Parker said this situation is unfortunate.

“We trust that there is a proper vetting process and training for the teachers we hire through the program,” Parker said. “This situation could be a major deciding factor in whether or not the school continues to use teachers trained through the Teach for America program.”

McDonogh City Park students in 2-8 grades were administered ANet 1 assessments in reading and math on September 25-26. ANet assessments were designed by the Achievement Network (ANet) to provide schools with data-driven strategies to identify and close gaps in student learning, according to their website. Every six to eight weeks, schools in the network administer two ANet assessments to gauge students’ academic progress in preparation for standardized tests.

McDonogh City Park and 64 other Louisiana schools participate in this localized network. Nationwide the Achievement Network services over 252 schools.

Mitchell said teachers will meet to assess test scores on October 18 and discuss strategies to get more students performing at grade-level.

Mitchell said the school also continues to stress the importance of professional development and preparation for the implementation of Common Core Standards for all school staff.

“Our teachers participated in common core training in late September and will be required to attend additional training at the end of October,” Mitchell said.

Assistant principal Melanie Hebert said the school has also started a after school program to prepare  fourth and eighth grade students for LEAP tests.

According to Hebert, the goal of the after school program is to provide individualized instruction to students based on previous test scores.

“Unfortunately, we are having difficulty getting some students to show up, the students who need the most help,” Hebert said.

Board president Mary Kay Parker and other board members suggested conducting the LEAP program during school hours and move enrichment activities, such as music and art class, to the after school program.

No decision was made on how to resolve the situation during the meeting, but Mitchell and Hebert said they will continue to work out a plan to get those students to show up.

Board members also discussed the upcoming release of School Performance Scores. Board president Mary Kay Parker said the state has pushed back the release of the performance scores to the end of October.

“Our school performance scores are particularly important this year,” said Parker. “Currently our performance score is 71.4. We need to get that up to 75 to be considered an acceptable school. While we know we have made great strides with the academics at McDonogh, that score is the determination of whether or not we’ve done a good job with our students.”

The charter contract for the New Orleans Charter Schools Foundation, which runs McDonogh City Park, is up for renewal on June 30, 2014.

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