Students at Andrew Wilson Charter School were suspended in January at a much higher rate than in prior months.

Principal Logan Crowe said that administrators at the 628-student K-8 school suspended 20 students during the month of January – a jump from the six that he suspended in December.

It’s “a shocking number,” Crowe told the board at its Tuesday meeting, adding that they were out-of-school suspensions. Most of the suspensions were due to fights, Crowe said in the meeting.

Nine students were suspended in September, six in October, eight in November and six in December, according to a presentation Crowe gave.

“We just didn’t know what happened,” he said. “We tend not to suspend unless it’s a major fight. Not just a push-and-shove, but hard to break up.”

Crowe later told The Lens that 12 of the January suspensions were from fighting. He said that the spike in suspensions could have been due to Mardi Gras.

December and January were “kind of hectic times,” he told board members. In addition to fights, Crowe said that he suspends students if they exhibit severe disrespect or cause major classroom disruptions.

“You know I don’t like to suspend, but sometimes there’s a time for it,” he told board President David Winkler-Schmit.

The school has a variety of strategies to try to dissuade disruptive behavior, including a positive behavior reward program, conflict resolution training and meditation for those who need it, Crowe said.

“We are also working closely with the Neighborhood Housing Services’ Center for Restorative Approaches so our staff and students can be coached in de-escalation, mediation and other techniques,” he said.

Despite those concerning disciplinary matters, Wilson officials did have some promising news to report on early childhood education and parental involvement.

The school has received $23,000 from the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission for Early Explorers, a new kindergarten readiness summer camp school officials hope to roll out in the near future.

The six-week transition program is for children ages four to six who plan on attending Wilson. The program has a budget of about $40,000, and the school is seeking other grants to support it, Winkler-Schmit said.

“We would like to do it this year if possible,” he said.

Additionally, Winkler-Schmit said there are signs parental involvement is on the rise.

Turnout was good at the school’s annual Math and Literacy Night, an after-school learning fair held for parents and students. More than 100 children and 50 to 75 parents attended for the Feb 19 event, according to a report shared with the board. At the meeting, assistant principal Ronicka Briscoe updated the report, adding that more than 120 students were in attendance.

Wilson’s educators used the fair as an opportunity to show parents cost-effective interactive games and activities they can do with their kids at home to improve vocabulary and math skills, Crowe said.

Both Winkler-Schmit and Crowe said the night involved household items such as Scrabble letters, measuring cups, and other tools that showed how to use math and reading while cooking, doing laundry and buying groceries.

“When I was a kid you were learning math and you were like, ‘When will I ever use it?” Winkler-Schmit said. “This is a perfect example of how you would be using it. And parents were really into it.”

Winkler-Schmit also announced that he was working on a Saturday LEAP tutoring partnership with Xavier University of Louisiana students.

In other school news, the school has received the $50,000 Believe and Include State Grant that funds academic services for students with disabilities, Crowe said.

The money will be spent on special education, training, software, curriculum and material.

“It will get us to the next level,” Crowe said.

An academic excellence report presented by Assistant Principal Ronicka Briscoe showed that the school was on track in terms of student growth and progress in reading and math.

According to data presented, 82 percent of kindergartners showed growth from August to January, as well as 68 percent of first graders, 79 percent of second graders and 75 percent of third graders.

The data was collected by DIBELS, the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills.

Briscoe also said that this is the first year the school has used Scantron computer-adapted tests to help measure student learning. So far, she said, students have encountered “some challenges,” mostly relating to pressure over the approximate hour and twenty minutes it takes some students to finish the test.

Overall, the school’s test results are on par with national norms, Briscoe said.

In finance, Director of Finance and Operations Darius Munchak said this year’s fund balance is a little more than $1 million, which helps clear up the school’s past deficit and leave the school in the black.

Last year, the school’s budget figures showed a deficit of more than $457,000.

The “absolute best case scenario” will leave the school with a $550,000 to $600,000 surplus, Munchak said Tuesday.

Stefanie Allweiss, a consultant who is assisting the school with governance matters, announced that the board’s governance committee is making progress revising a new employee handbook, which it hopes to have ready for review in late April.

“Where the manual speaks in general terms, we’re working on the nuts and bolts,” Allweiss said.

A fundraising committee report showed members are currently working on getting magnets and pins made for Wilson alumni, in the hopes of fostering a greater sense of connection and community in Wilson’s past.

“Thousands of people have come through those doors,” said Winkler-Schmit. “They have a vested interest in this school. And there are lots of things that set us apart.”

At a previous board meeting, committee members reported that they were currently focusing on introducing prospective supporters to the school through school tours.

David Winkler-Schmit, Logan Crowe, Ronicka Briscoe, Darius Munchak, Derek Rabb, Frank Williams, Emily Wolff and Kristyna Jones were all in attendance.

The next board meeting is scheduled for March 26.

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...