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McDonogh City Park narrows search for new management to two candidates

The New Orleans Charter Schools Foundation is close to choosing a charter management organization to take over McDonogh City Park Academy in the coming school year.

The two finalists, Crescent City Schools and ReNEW Schools, made presentations to the board at its monthly meeting, March 18.

The search began in January and by February, the New Orleans Charter Schools Foundation had narrowed the list to three management groups. ARISE Schools  withdrew from the race leaving the two finalists, Jim Nelson, board president, said.

An audience of 21 teachers, staff or parents turned out for the March meeting to learn about the two networks’ educational philosophies and administrative plans.

Crescent City Schools, a smaller management group, said it emphasizes on-site leadership and specialized focus to raise student achievement. Their primary experience has been with kindergarten through eighth-grade students.

ReNEW Schools, a bigger management group, has a back-office staff of 21. That allows opportunities for professional and academic development, presenters said. ReNEW also spoke of adding a creative arts program at McDonogh City Park.

The next step in the selection process has been for board members, faculty and staff to tour schools under each management group.

“We would like to make a decision in April or May, because it works better for parents, students and teachers, but now that the urgency for a decision isn’t what it was before, we would rather delay the decision than rush the decision,” Nelson said.

The board agreed that both management groups are high quality. The key difference for the board to ponder is the differing levels of managerial involvement they offer.

In other news McDonogh City Park Academy is using a new system to deal with disciplinary problems.

In February, dean of students Kevis Louis set up a rewards system to encourage better discipline, rather than simply punish students who break rules. The new approach seems to be working, the board was advised.

As principal Christine Mitchell said at the February board meeting, “Discipline is a huge piece of this school and we want to focus on the positive.”

Under the new system, students earn points for following the rules, and if they earn enough points they get to go on field trips financed by a $19,000 grant received last year from the Recovery School District.

Since February, Louis said he has conducted two field trips, the first of them brought 174 students to a skating rink. The second, for 75 students, was a Pelicans game.

Louis told board members that other rewards would include a second Pelicans game and use of City Park’s mini-golfing and amusement rides, a treat for 170 students.

“I only take the top performing students, so the best of the best, and even though there will always be some students who could care less about rewards, overall discipline has gotten better,” Louis said.

The two-and-a-half hour minute meeting began shortly after 5:30 p.m. and was attended by board members Nelson, Emily Waterfield, Mike Plemmer, Mary Kay Parker, Mike Bagot and Monica Candal. Absentees were Lee Hampton, Lee Charbonnet and John Hughes.

The next meeting was scheduled for April 15.

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