The Morris Jeff Community School board of directors chose Wanda Anderson-Guillaume as its new president Thursday night.
Anderson-Guillaume, the board’s vice president, will replace Aesha Rasheed. The board unanimously elected Rasheed as vice president.
“It’s been a really great couple of years, and I’m really excited to do this and I’m really excited to support Wanda in her leadership,” Rasheed said.
The board also chose board member Jennifer Weishaupt as secretary. Weishaupt will replace Belinda Cambre, who is stepping down from the board, she announced Thursday.
The board also elected three new members to the board.
Anderson-Guillaume nominated Kamala Baker-Jackson, the director of technology integration at the Recovery School District.
The board voted to add her as a member only after discussing the possibility of whether or not her position could create a conflict of interest with her job positions and her work on Morris Jeff’s non-profit board of directors.
“She has an extensive technology experience. She understands academics, school management, and right now she’s actually working with Jacobs. She’s on the facilities side now,” Anderson-Guillaume said when nominating her.
Jacobs/CSRS is a construction partnership that has a three-year contract with the RSD to oversee New Orleans’ $1.8 billion Master Plan school construction project.
“What I like most about her is her experience, that she would assist us with moving forward, because she’s heavily involved in the construction of our new building. There are questions we can ask her directly that we might have,” she added.
Other board members seemed hesitant about Baker-Jackson’s current role, however.
“I just have one question about a conflict of interest,” Weishaupt said, mentioning that she had been following the story of Orleans Parish School Board President Ira Thomas.
There have been questions whether Thomas violated state law by working full-time with Southern University at New Orleans as head of security, according to nola.com.
“I think the state law says that as long as you’re an employee in education you’re allowed to be on a school district board?” Weishaupt asked.
“Yeah, as long as you don’t use your position as a position of power or influence it’s not a conflict,” Anderson-Guillaume said, adding that she had already brought the question to attorneys.
Weishaupt suggested that Baker-Jackson recuse herself from certain decision-making processes, such as situations where she has capability to direct grant money.
“She wouldn’t want there to be an appearance of impropriety,” Weishaupt said.
Anderson-Guillaume added that she didn’t think Baker-Jackson was involved in those kinds of programs for the RSD at the moment.
Cambre added that it looked from her application like she had a consulting firm, so the board would have to be careful to not hire her, as that would be another conflict of interest.
“She would not be able to use that to her advantage,” Cambre said.
The board ultimately decided that Baker-Jackson could become a member without posing conflicting interests.
The board also elected Catherine Pacyna, a social worker for a private practice and for the St. Benedict the Moor School, to the board of directors.
“She’s consistent and thoughtful and attentive,” said Rasheed, who nominated her. “It brings some extra support around young people who may be struggling.”
Heather Schwartz, an education policy researcher at RAND Corporation, also was elected to the board.
Schwartz has also been a part of the school’s fund development committee for the last year or more, Rasheed added.
“She has good follow-through,” Rasheed said. “She’s been really supportive and helpful and thoughtful about how to keep our school growing in the best possible direction.”
Weishaupt wanted to make sure that the new board members knew what they were signing up for.
“In talking with them we’ve confirmed their understanding of the amount of hours that are required and that attendance at board meetings is not mandatory, but strongly encouraged,” Weishaupt said.
Rasheed said that she was “really excited” to add “new blood.”
The board also voted to partner with the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association and possibly one other entity to maintain and improve Desmare Playground for the period that Morris Jeff resides in a school building at Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church.
Desmare, located at 3456 Esplanade, is next door to the school’s temporary new location at 3368 Esplanade.
Some duties will include mowing the grass, picking up trash and cleaning up plants. The school may also try to help install new swing sets.
The students won’t have exclusive use of the playground during recess, Weishaupt added.
“We don’t anticipate problems with public access because it’s a pretty underutilized space,” Weishaupt said. “However, we do want to make sure that the playground is clean and well-maintained.”
The board will not meet in July. In August, the meeting will be held at Our Lady of the Rosary.
In addition to Rasheed, Anderson-Guillaume, Jagers, Cambre and Weishaupt, board member Jolene Jeff was present. Morris Jeff Principal Patricia Perkins and Jared Frank, the school’s director of finance and operations, also were present.