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Student assessments show improvement; free health services touted; Lens report denied

The board of Morris Jeff Community School met at 6 p.m. Sept. 14 in the second-floor community space.

Patricia Perkins, acting principal, began the meeting with a report on the first wave of student assessments.

Currently 60 percent of kindergartners who were in the school’s pre-K program last year are performing at grade level, while 32 percent of newcomers are at grade level. The kindergarten has begun using a new assessment technique called S.T.E.P. (Strategic Teaching and Evaluation of Progress), Perkins said, adding that Morris Jeff intends eventually to use it in first, second and third grade as well.

The current first-grade numbers show 50 students enrolled in two sections. Thirty-six percent are below grade level, an improvement over last year when 60 percent of the class was below grade level.

In second grade, 52 students are split between two sections. Fifty-eight percent are below grade level, but the number does not include 12 newcomers who have yet to be fully assessed.

Only 35 percent of third-graders are below grade level, Perkins reported.

The school is offering new services free of charge, the board learned. For example, in the week prior, students were given vision and hearing screenings. Those who were found to need eyeglasses were provided them at no cost. Louisiana Smile is offering free teeth-cleaning and dental work as well.

A financial report revealed that the school went over budget for the month of August but still maintained a small positive balance and, for the year, the school is expected to meet budget projections.

A complete audit is scheduled for Oct. 10, and is expected to go smoothly.

Perkins said next spring the school starts participating in a centralized enrollment lottery, with a second lottery, scheduled during the summer, mostly to accommodate new students. Perkins said details are still being worked out and that she will provide more information at the board’s October meeting.

During the public comment period, board president Aesha Rasheed discussed a recent report by The Lens on the school’s discipline practices, some of which – in particular placing misbehaving students in what are called “seclusion rooms” — drew fire from parents at board meetings last year. Said Rasheed: “There is no such place as a ‘seclusion room’ at Morris Jeff. Furthermore, we don’t practice this sort of isolating response to misbehavior.” Two parents in the audience, one of them a local pastor, attested to Rasheed’s statements and the abundance of care the school has accorded their children.

The board ended the meeting by going into an executive session, from which the general public is barred, to discuss legal matters.

The Morris Jeff fundraising gala has been scheduled for Oct. 20, with music by the Rebirth Brass Band. Organizers have said they hope everyone will come out and show support.

The next board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 27.

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