Correction: the original post attributed a quote to board member Kimbraugh, when board member Davis actually said it. Also Ms. Mehr’s first name has been corrected, and her role as Development Director for Crescent City Schools under CEO Mehok was clarified.

The principal of Harriet Tubman Charter School has set an aggressive goal for all students: Move up one level on the state’s battery of standardized testing.

Principal Julie Lause explained her academic goals to the body that governs the campus, the Crescent City Schools board, at an Oct. 19 meeting. Tubman is the only school overseen by this board.

The eight-member board also

  • discussed cash-flow problems,
  • talked about proposed building renovations, including a $22 million makeover, and
  • met the school’s new fund-raiser.

Lause explained that the academic goal is for every student to advance annually on the five-level achievement ladder the state has established. The levels are unsatisfactory, approaching basic, basic, advanced and mastery.

Board member Julius E. Kimbrough Jr. Aimee Davis asked if this achievement goal could be plotted “at the intersection of ambitious and attainable.”

Lause acknowledged the goal represented “a big guess,” but she said the ambitious commitment “represents excellence” because it is bold and different goal compared to other schools. Lause also said the level-up commitment would be a motivational force for Tubman’s staff and leadership.

Discussing finances, board member Paul Pechon reported that the school’s liabilities exceed assets, and that the school has applied to Iberia Bank for a $150,000 credit line. He said accounts payable were paid down “in great fashion” during the first quarter of the academic year, from $150,000 to $20,000. After a request from board member Carolyn Chandler, Pechon said a cash-flow analysis would be added to the November meeting agenda.

Discussing the school building, Chief Operating Officer Nick Walker said Tubman will a full $22 million renovation by 2016. However, Tubman is the last project scheduled on the master plan recently approved by the Orleans Parish School Board and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Walker suggested that such a long timeline means they will have to remind officials about this commitment.

Chief Executive Officer Kate Mehok said that the school will have to leave the current building for one or two years while renovations take place.

Pechon asked what happened to the idea of a new building. Board Chairman J.P. Hymel said that Recovery School District Superintendent John White told him that Tubman’s relatively good physical condition lent itself to renovation rather than a new facility.

Hymel said White was responsive to his inquiries and had agreed to meet regularly with Tubman. Hymel said “transparency is key” during this master plan process and suggested posting progress reports on the school website to document the progress of the planned renovations.

Walker said a request for bids on a new roof for the existing facility was put out on Oct. 11 and a contractor will be selected by Nov. 15. Walker said he hopes the job will be complete in December. Mehok said the current roof’s condition was one of her major concerns.

Also, Mehok introduced Alison Mehr, the board’s new development director of Crescent City Schools. Mehr said she “believes in reform” and, despite opportunities to work at hedge funds and investment banks, she opted to sign on with Mehok and Lause at Tubman because she admired the culture they had created at the school.

The meeting concluded with plans for Visitor’s Day on Oct. 25,  from 8 to 9:30 a.m. The event will be open to all and will include presentations on how to get involved with Tubman, a tour of the school and refreshments.  The public is asked to RSVP to Mehok.

All eight members of the Crescent City Schools board were present:

  • Chairman J.P. Hymel
  • Carolyn Chandler
  • Aimee Davis
  • Julius Kimbrough
  • Agnieszka McPeak
  • Paul Pechon
  • Doug Harrell
  • Anne Burrell

The board began the meeting by recognizing the contributions of founding board members Walter C. Stern and Dierdre Johnson Burel, who both resigned for personal reasons.

Mark Moseley

Mark Moseley blogs at Your Right Hand Thief. Until mid 2014, Mark Moseley was The Lens' opinion writer, engagement specialist and coordinator for the Charter Schools Reporting Corps. After Katrina and...