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Lens reporter finds doors to Morris Jeff board meeting locked

Morris Jeff Community School board members had their monthly meeting on Thursday, but The Lens was only able to report on part of it because the school door was locked for the first 20 minutes of the meeting.

The meeting was slated to start at 7 p.m. and lasted until 7:38 p.m.

At 6:55 p.m., the reporter arrived at the front of the building and tried opening the door to the building marked “Visitor’s Entrance.” The door was locked. The reporter buzzed, but there was no answer.

A walk around the perimeter of the building revealed that no other entrances were open. No maintenance crew or staff could be seen through the windows, although all the lights were on.

The reporter continued to try to knock and buzz the doorbell for 25 minutes, in addition to emailing members of the board about the situation. No other members of the public attempted to get in during that time.

A maintenance worker opened the door just after 7:20 p.m.

At that time, the board was just finishing its finance committee report, which board member Melissa Jagers said mostly consisted of topics discussed at Tuesday’s financial meeting.

During an open public comment period immediately afterward, the reporter brought up the issue of the locked door and asked how parents and other members of the public were supposed to engage if they couldn’t have access to the board meeting.

Board president Aesha Rasheed said that it was highly unusual for the door to be locked, and other board members said they had never encountered the issue before Thursday night. * Rasheed and Jared Frank, director of finance and operations, apologized for the inconvenience.

Rasheed said that she had thought about what to do in the past in case the door was ever accidentally locked. She said it might be a good idea to provide information about what to do on the agenda that’s posted on the door.

Board members then discussed upcoming events, including an art auction fundraiser tentatively slated for March 2, and an IB validation visit scheduled for March 7 and 8.

Principal Patricia Perkins said that the school would be having a joint fundraiser with Edward Hynes Charter School at City Park on Saturday, March 16. Board members also mentioned a fish fry on Friday March 22 and a spring fair Saturday, May 11.

Perkins said that all events would be posted in a newsletter that the public can subscribe to on the school’s website.

In addition to Rasheed, Jagers and Frank, those in attendance were Jolene M. Jeff, Wanda Guillaume, Jennifer F. Weishaupt, Stacey Gengel and Belinda Cambre.

* Correction: Jared Frank is director of finance and operations for Morris Jeff Community School. An earlier version of this story incorrectly called him a board member.

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About Della Hasselle

Della Hasselle, a freelance journalist and producer, reports environmental and criminal justice stories for The Lens. A graduate of Benjamin Franklin High School and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, Hasselle lived in New York for 10 years. While up north, she produced and anchored news segments, wrote feature stories and reported breaking news for, a hyperlocal news site. Before that, she worked at the New York Daily News. She obtained her master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She can be reached at (917) 304-6121.

  • nickelndime

    This sounds fishy to me. Maybe that’s why they are having a fish fry. I can hear the board president saying now, “Della, you didn’t really miss anything. We’ll fill you in later.” We think that the RSD is overbilling for property insurance (oh look! Della got in the building – cool it). What happened to Board Member Brian Beabout? And besides THE LENS reporter, who attends these meetings? It doesn’t sound like the public is trying to get into that building. Morris Jeff received some of that New Schools for New Orleans federal money. It is a D school, but the fact that NSNO has singled it out as a grant recipient means that something is amiss.

  • justinwolfe

    I expect more from The Lens. This is not a news story. While not being able to get into the meeting temporarily was unfortunate, there’s nothing to suggest that this is either a regular practice or something that was intended. It’s called an accident. And then after several paragraphs devoted to this accident, we get ONE sentence describing the rest of the meeting. Where’s the analysis? The fact that this post was given a title about Hasselle not being able to get in gives credence to the notion that this was somehow intentional (and thus important enough to merit a story of its own). I hope for better from The Lens next time.