By Mary Catherine Cassidy

The McDonogh City Park Academy school board met May 15 to discuss the end of the school year and suggestions for improvements in 2012-13.

With principal Christine Mitchell out of town, master teacher Sheila Hebert presented the school leader’s report.

Projected enrollment for the 2012-2013 school year stands at 392, but is expected to rise to 435, based on information from the Recovery School District.

The academy is also working with TeachNola, Teach for America, and the Eastbank Collaborative to fill five teaching vacancies for the upcoming school year. Returning teachers were expected to participate in professional development with the Children’s Bureau May 21- 23.

End of the year data provided by Gerald Posey, dean of students, showed that since in-school suspension was implemented, out-of-school suspensions have decreased tremendously and policies and procedures are better enforced. Of 14 out-of-school suspensions between April 19 and the end of the semester, nine were given during the first week of transition.

Hebert said she was proud and humbled by the talent students demonstrated at the school’s first annual spring recital on May 1.

In other good news, the DIBELS Next school report showed that kindergarten through fourth grade students met benchmark goals. Board president Mary Kay Parker said she was concerned that expectations may have been set too low for fourth graders. Seventy-four percent reached or exceeded the benchmark, far more than the 48 percent who had been projected to do so. Hebert says they plan to raise the bar next year.

Small instructional groups, one-minute timed reading drills and hands-on activities and interventions were among strategies believed to have made for the strengthened scores. Board members’ suggestions – including fundraisers to boost parental involvement and motivational speeches by community leaders – also proved helpful, Hebert said. “It’s evident that there is change,” she said, “but I feel like we are not where we should be, there is still room for improvement.”

One area for improvement is parental involvement.

“We’re trying to get our parents involved in the school,” Hebert said. “We’re looking at having parents come in for some type of professional development in order to help them be more aware of what to look for and what they can do to help their students at home as well as being more knowledgeable about the common core.”

Hebert said there were a large number of parents at the kindergarten graduation. She added that she hopes they will still be as involved when their children reach fourth, fifth and sixth grade.

“I think the kids would like seeing their parents here,” Parker said. “If they could come once out of the year and read for 10 minutes even.”

In a financial report, board member Mike Plemmer reported total cash of $731,757, all receivables were collected and the school is in the black.

Parker announced at the end of the meeting that all board members were to complete an online ethics course required by the Louisiana Association of Charter Schools.

In addition to Parker and Plemmer, members Michael Bagot, Monica Candal and Brittany Major were present.

The next board meeting is scheduled for June 19.