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Tougher national standards welcome, Early says; extra-curricular activities are on the rise

The board of Lake Forest Elementary Charter School met Sept. 20, at 1:30 p.m. with all members present except Donald Plate. The meeting was an occasion to review the year ahead.

Started in 1988 as a selective admissions school for pre-K through eighth-grade students, Lake Forest has been one of the city’s best-performing and most improved schools as measured by state performance standards. But attracting private and corporate donors has been a problem, board members learned at the Tuesday meeting. The school currently receives over 80% of its funding from the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and another 10% from federal and state grants, board members were told.

Part of the problem is that the school occupies in temporary quarters at 12000 Hayne Blvd., while awaiting construction of a new building on land purchased by the Orleans Parish School Board from Greater St. Stephen’s Church.

Bernell St. Cyr, the board’s finance officer, said the temporary arrangement makes it hard to raise money. Private and corporate donors are reluctant to invest in a facility that must spend so much on patchwork solutions to maintenance issues, such as roof leaks, repair of aging air systems or removal of the occasional possum.

Working through its agenda, the Board reviewed a number of upcoming changes in state education policy, including new teacher evaluation criteria, student behavior reports, and a new student-attendance tracking system; all take effect in the next two years.

Principal Mardele Early addressed the Common Core Standards Initiative, which would set a new national baseline for education. The school’s solid academic performance leaves it with little to fear from stiffer national standards, she said, while expressing hope that the new measure will help improve schools all across the country.

Unlike many area schools, which have had to focus intently on raising standardized test scores, Lake Forest has been able to develop extra-curricular activities, Early said. She listed a range of charity events in which students and staff are participating. In addition, the school has added a debate team, cross-country running, and a flag football team to its roster of student organizations.

Though students continue to perform better in the classroom than on the field, the board expressed the hope that extracurricular opportunities will create lifetime enthusiasms and, in the near term, help students get into good colleges.

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