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Push to raise teacher retirement age also raises eyebrows; access to public pensions in doubt

Principal Mardele Early used the Feb. 14 meeting of Lake Forest Elementary’s board of directors to urge close attention to a handout from the governor’s office detailing an agenda of possible school reforms. “You really need to read through it and see some of things that are being proposed by Governor Jindal,” Early said. “It impacts all of us in this state.”

Among the measures Jindal hopes to enact, the teacher retirement age would rise from 55 to 67.

Board attorney Windi Brown expressed astonishment: “Twelve years?”

“That’s unconscionable,” board member Leila Eames said.  “This is not a profession where people can keep going forever without burning out.”

Early asked the members to read the package before the next meeting, then gave the board more bad news: “The IRS has proposed that charter schools not be considered public entities,” she said.

Early also cited a letter from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools which discusses new rules that, among other changes, could prohibit charter school teachers from participating in state retirement plans.

Moving on to a more immediate challenge, Early mentioned the upcoming Phase 1 LEAP tests for fourth- and eighth-graders. Second-graders also will take a version of the LEAP test this year.

Early then discussed an in-depth professional development day she attended with Lake Forest teachers. “They talked about the action plan for each individual student,” she said, inviting board members to inspect a thick binder containing detailed data on each student’s proficiencies.

In a discussion of school technology, it was reported that every student from third- through eighth-grade has a laptop and that kindergartners and first- and second-graders soon will as well. Board President Lee Caston said iPads would cost less, if they fit teacher needs.  Early said she would meet with teachers and the school’s technology coordinator to discuss the options.

Lake Forest Elementary will be hosting this year’s New Orleans Charter School Social Work Network Meeting, Early said. She said that in the aftermath of the recent shooting of a Warren Easton student, a couple of Lake Forest students who knew the victim received counseling, as did at least one parent.

“When there’s tragedy, death, anything, come to school, we have the services here, Early said, “plus, it teaches the children to keep going.”

The meeting, which began at 1:30 p.m. and was adjourned at 2:57 p.m., was attended by members Denise Williams, Gina Dupart, Donald Pate, and Brian Richburg, in addition to Brown, Eames and Caston.

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