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Crocker teachers steadfast during difficult transition, leaders say

The business of transition is underway at Crocker Arts and Technology as the school prepares to hand over leadership to New Orleans College Prep on June 30.

Board president Grisela Jackson told the school’s board that she had received a month-by-month to do list from the Recovery School District, and is in regular contact with Brandie Burris, manager of school performance, who will be assisting with the transition.

“We’ve gotten a lot of praise from the RSD and others in the community who are looking at us as the right way to go through this process,” Jackson said during the board’s meeting Saturday. “This has been a really painful, difficult time but nobody has stormed out. Everybody is still putting the kids first.”

Jackson also said that New Orleans College Prep is at the school regularly doing classroom observations and interviewing staff.

Some teachers and staff members have already been notified that they will not be asked to remain after the end of the school year, however Jackson said they are still showing up every day and doing their jobs. She credited Principal Charmaine Robertson with creating a family-orientated culture at the school.

“We won’t abandon our kids,” is what Robertson said she is hearing from teachers, even those offered jobs elsewhere. “The news has not fazed them at all and they are carrying on.”

Concerning the myriad of financial details involved in a school transition, Robertson explained that anything purchased with state or federal dollars must remain at the school. But she said the board will decide what to do with items purchased with donations and private funds.

The school’s current governing board, Advocacy for the Arts and Technology in New Orleans, will remain in existence as a nonprofit through December, as their record books need to remain open for auditing purposes.

All student records will stay on-site at the school, but financial and employee records will move to a storage unit, as they must be kept for 10 years.

President Jackson said she will be applying for a grant from New Schools for New Orleans to help cover the legal and accounting costs that will come from the closeout process.

Crocker received the results of its current audit and there were no findings. Findings from previous years have been resolved according to Jackson, and she commended CPA Brendell Deemer for her great effort and outcome.

While Crocker has not had teachers walk off the job in anticipation of the transition, the RSD told Robertson that the district, and other schools in this situation have in the past offered teachers a monetary incentive to finish out the school year.

Robertson said that while it has not been necessary up to this point, the finance committee can discuss the financial feasibility of offering such bonuses if it is something the school decides it wants to do.

While charter school boards conduct business in open and public meetings, board member John Tobler asked The Lens not to publish the mention of possible teacher incentives, “so that staff is not expecting or aware of something that may not end up happening.”

The meeting ran for 40 minutes and present board members were, Grisela Jackson, Simonne Robinson, Mary Ellen Alexander, Shaun Rafferty, Stephen Boyard, and John Tobler.

The next meeting of the Advocacy for the Arts and Technology in New Orleans will be Feb. 23 at 11 a.m.

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