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Sliding performance score draws board attention; members encouraged to dream big

McDonogh City Park’s D-minus school performance grade focused the attention of New Orleans Charter Schools Foundation board members at their meeting on Oct. 25.

The grade, assigned by the state Department of Education, reflects lower numbers on last year’s  LEAP and iLEAP tests. The school also lost points due to worsening attendance and dropout rates. The board acknowledged that all but one of McDonogh City Park’s teachers have removed their elementary-aged children from the school.

Board members present were President Mark Kay Parker, VP Jim Nelson and board members Michael Bagot, Lee Hampton and Emily Waterfield. Also at the table were Assistant Principal Ellen Bankston, Principal/CEO Christine Mitchell, Director of Finance and Operations Keeanya Dupre and Coordinator of School Services Carmelite Lofton. Absent were secretary Lee Hampton and Lauren Charbonnet. Dina Hasitios is on a leave of absence. Jim Furman resigned from the board and moved to Colorado.

To reduce absenteeism, a factor in the performance score, the board discussed suspensions, especially of special-ed students. “We pull kids out for problems but then they don’t have classroom instruction,” Parker said. “We need someone who pulls kids out but then gives the instruction.” The board gave the go-ahead for Mitchell to look for another full-time disciplinary staff member who would concentrate on in-school suspensions, with a focus on special-ed students.

On the brighter side, Mitchell’s monthly report said the school’s recent report card conference boasted 51-percent parent participation, with some classes reaching 60-percent.

The school’s audit, though still in draft form, is so far problem-free, but enrollment is off, the board was told. “We have less students than we budgeted for, meaning we will receive less funds than we anticipated,” Parker said. “In order to cover the deficit, we either have to cut expenditures, use funds that we have on hand to cover the deficit, or enroll more students to get additional funds.”

Notwithstanding the budget shortfall, Nelson, the board treasurer, encouraged members to bring a “wish list” to the next meeting, including anything from,  “new teachers to a new gym.”


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