The New Orleans Charter Schools Foundation board of directors that oversees McDonogh City Park Academy will renew its roughly $300,000 a year service contract with Hammond Transportation to provide bus services for the upcoming school year.

Board members discussed the annual contract at the monthly board meeting July 16. They said the contract amount is on par with other school bus service companies and that school leaders are satisfied with the service Hammond provides.

The only way to reduce transportation costs, board member Mary Kay Parker said, is to recruit more students from the Mid-City charter school’s surrounding neighborhoods.

In other business, Principal Christine Mitchell told board members that 66 percent of the teachers at City Park Academy were rated highly effective under the state’s rating system for teachers.

The evaluation system, adopted by the Legislature in 2010, is based 50 percent on classroom observation and 50 percent on standardized test scores.

Eight out of 12 City Park Academy teachers who teach high-stakes testing grade levels scored highly effective, up from one out of 12 teachers scoring highly effective last year, Mitchell said.

Mitchell also said four out of five newly hired teachers were labeled as highly effective. Two teachers were rated as proficient, with two other teachers rated as emerging proficient.

Board members also reviewed an introductory outline on the City Park Academy’s strategic plan for the next four years. The plan will focus on improvement in four key areas: academic achievement, school culture, teacher and leader competence, and parent and community involvement.

The board stressed that the strategic plan will be an evolving process broken into three phases: “where we are, where we would like to go and what we need to do to bridge the gap.”

According to board documents outlining the strategic plan, “the emphasis is on process because that’s exactly what the strategic plan should be – a process.”

“A plan with specific steps to be taken over the next four years won’t be of use three months from now, much less three years from now, because it will be static and unflinching in the face of the future,” board members said in their mission statement. “Instead, we should focus our efforts on engaging in meaningful and honest dialogue about the opportunities and challenges that await.”

Board Chairman Michael Plemer noted that one of the school’s biggest challenges has always been increasing parental involvement.

“How do we get the parents more involved?” Plemer asked. “That’s something that we really want to zero in on and tell the parents we’re working hard and we need you to work hard. I appreciate everything everybody’s done. We’ve got some challenges and things to think about.”

Heather Miller

Heather Miller is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to The Lens' Charter School Reporting Corps. She is a former staff writer for The Independent in Lafayette, and is now based in New Orleans.