Warren Easton’s board of directors and all school staff must undergo background checks, the board voted at its monthly meeting, Feb. 12.

In other business, principal Alexina Medley reported on the fatal shooting of senior Tirrell Jackson during a scuffle at a residence in eastern New Orleans. (The New Orleans Police Department’s report of the incident can be read here).  Medley said she brought in counselors to talk with students after the incident.

Medley told board president David Garland of the incident when she learned of it and asked that he inform board members.  Member Jeff Zapata expressed concern that too much time elapsed before Garland passed on the information to other board members. Garland said he was traveling when Medley notified him and informed board members that afternoon.

Zapata said he was also concerned that Garland didn’t inform the board of Troy ”Trombone Shorty” Andrews’ gift of 200 custom-made instruments in late January.  Andrews, who graduated from Warren Easton in 2004, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu dropped off the instruments during a surprise visit covered by media. Zapata was joined by other board members in saying he was irked that reporters knew of the event, but he didn’t.

Garland apologized and said: “I didn’t think it was essential and I didn’t know the press was going to be involved.”

Medley and Garland had a meeting at the mayor’s office prior to the donation and were asked to keep quiet about the presentation.

The idea of background checks arose after Garland, in his president’s report, discussed his proposed update of the board’s bylaws. The board voted to order fingerprint background checks for all school staff and board members in August of 2012, and every third year after that.  The school already requires background checks for new employees and will continue to do so.  The foundation will cover the cost of fingerprinting board members and new employees will continue to pay for their own. The board did not discuss what priors turned up by the background checks would be disqualifying.

Lighting around the school has been greatly improved with the addition of five lights, and a new security guard will be starting Feb. 16, Medley said, adding that she expects an incoming class of 225 to 240 freshmen next year.  The school has about 17 students per teacher, she said, and is planning to add two or three teachers for the next academic year.

Finance officer Mike Greer said he should have a preliminary budget for 2012-13 available for board review in April.

The board went into executive session, but not to discuss “personnel issues,” the item listed on the agenda. Instead the topic discussed behind closed doors was the Southern Poverty Law Center’s suit against the state education officials and the Recovery School District over access to special-education services. No motions came out of the executive session.

Board members present included Garland, Zapata, Robert Delle, Ronald McDonald, David Napoleon, David Benelli, Brenda Christiansen, and ex-officio member Sal Genovese.

Medley, Greer, assistant principal Joseph Gilyot, fund development coordinator Janet Gaudet, Steve Costa, facilities consultant Ken Ducote, and a Lens reporter were also present.

Members McDonald, Napoleon and Christiansen left before the meeting was adjourned.

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...