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Choice Foundation board discusses plans to take over McDonogh 42

Choice Foundation, the charter management organization that currently runs Lafayette Academy and Esperanza Charter schools, discussed its takeover of McDonogh 42 at its June 29 board meeting.

Choice’s Executive Director Mickey Landry cautioned the board that the upcoming year would be one of “massive change.”

In addition to the implementation of state common core standards in two of its schools, the Choice Foundation took over McDonogh 42 as of July 1.

McDonogh 42 is an elementary school that was overseen by the Treme Charter School Association for the last four years.  TCSA did not have its charter renewed for the 2012-2013 school year.

Principal Fran Trujillo said she expects to move into McDonogh 42 on Monday, July 2.  She said there are 442 students currently enrolled for the upcoming school year, many of whom are returning students.  Choice will hold an open house event at McDonogh 42 on July 12 to introduce the community to the new leadership.

Choice staff members said Esperanza is fully staffed for the upcoming year.  The other two schools are still looking to fill a few positions.

Business Manager James Fulton said the organization will see a $5.4 million increase in revenues and a $5.2 million increase in expenditures.  These numbers reflect the takeover of McDonogh 42 as well as Lafayette Academy’s addition of an eighth-grade class.  The board approved the budget.

In conjunction with New Schools for New Orleans, Choice will be participating in the Teacher Incentive Fund.  The Fund offers performance pay of up to $2,500 for teachers, $5,000 for assistant principals and $10,000 for principals.  Teacher evaluations will be completed four times a year.

Additionally, state assessment laws now require that teacher evaluations have a value-added component, meant to be a measure of how much value a particular teacher has added to each student’s development.

Staff members assured the board that the evaluation process for the Teacher Incentive Fund aligns with the state’s new requirements for evaluating teachers.  They said data-driven evaluations would also help teachers identify areas of weakness and drive professional development.

Director of Development Jeanne Huber said next year’s fundraising goal is $425,000.  This represents an increase over last year’s goal, Huber said.

Landry said several issues, including a termite infestation, have delayed the central office’s move into Choice’s new headquarters. The current plan is to move in October.

The last item on the agenda was listed as an executive session, although the reason for holding the session was not listed.

Board Chairman James Huger announced that the board was moving to executive session, but no vote was taken.  Louisiana law requires a vote and an opportunity for public comment before a public body can move into a closed session.

Asked by a Lens reporter to identify which exemption to the state’s open meetings law the board was citing, Huger consulted with members, and a lawyer, Alysson Mills.  Huger and Mills replied that the issue was a personnel matter.

When asked if the person or persons to be discussed had been notified 24 hours prior to the meeting, in accordance with state law, Huger and Mills said there were no specific personnel being discussed.

Board members implied that an executive session would still be held, and the reporter left the room, stating she would be in the hallway waiting for notification of the board’s return to an open session.

Before taking action after closed session, a board is required to notify the public that the meeting has returned to open session.

A few minutes later, Mills came into the hallway and said the board had decided not to hold a closed session.

The reporter reentered the room to find the meeting seemingly adjourned and confirmed the meeting’s end with Huger.

The board meeting began at 4:04 p.m. and ended at 5:56 p.m.

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