On Tuesday night, board members of Educators for Quality Alternatives met for their monthly meeting and discussed their reactions to the violence that has claimed several students at The NET Charter High School, which the board governs.
“We unfortunately have gotten an email once a month for five months that a young person who attends this school was killed and murdered,” board president Kristina Kent said.
Isaiah Johnston, 19, was killed in June, and Leonard George, 18, was killed in September. Since then, Tyrin Whitfield, 19, Antwan Seaton, 17, and most recently, Terrence Roberts, 15, also were slain.
“The hardest thing about this is we don’t know what to do,” Kent said, “but we have to become more educated.”
Kent recommended that board members attend community meetings to discuss community issues and possible solutions. She plans to send a list of events to board members to encourage them to attend. She also wrote an opinion piece for The Times-Picayune about her reaction to the violence as board chair.
“Hoping that it will change, hoping that we’re doing enough is not working anymore,” Kent said. “Our voices are missing… I think it’s really important that members of this board be a part of the discussion.”
The NET Charter High School’s mission is to serve struggling high school students by offering skills and instruction they need to graduate and succeed after high school. Often their students were unable to succeed at conventional schools for a number of reasons, and The NET offers a flexible program of study to accommodate their needs. The student population also faces a lot of risks in daily life, Principal Elizabeth Ostberg said.
“We have to be brave enough to say we will always look to enroll [at-risk] kids. We have to do that even though we know some of our kids will face these violent outcomes,” Ostberg said.
Ostberg said staff maintains close relationships with students and are often aware when students are potential targets of community violence. In those situations, Ostberg works with police, staff and families to ensure student safety.
“The biggest security tactic is how well you know the kids,” Ostberg said.
The board also evaluated the school’s risk assessments in areas regarding fire, liability insurance, accidents and potential gun violence like the attack last year at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
“Our building is considered highly safe,” Ostberg said.
In other business, the board heard that the Recovery School District will propose an “Alternative Schools Accountability” framework to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in January to evaluate schools like The NET, Crescent Leadership Academy and ReNEW Accelerated, using a different set of measures to supplement school performance scores. The board reviewed the most recent revision of the proposed framework during the meeting.
“I’m a little nervous about the value-added data,” board member Michelle Brown said. That data will measure student growth in math and literacy but the board felt unclear about how it will be measured and compared by the RSD.
The board also added a new member, Alanah Odoms Hebert, after Gary Howarth resigned from the board this month to move to New York. Hebert is an attorney at Gauthier, Houghtaling & Williams, and is active with several community organizations that serve New Orleans youth.