The board of Educators for Quality Alternatives met for a planning retreat Tuesday night at The NET Charter High School to discuss the development of a long-term strategic plan.

Educators for Quality Alternatives created The NET Charter High School in response to a perceived need for alternative solutions for struggling high school students in New Orleans.

“We have two different organizations here,” board president Kristina Kent said. “We have The NET and we have Educators for Quality Alternatives. …

“So far the strategic plan of EQA and The NET have been the same, to get the school to a certain point, but now we’re sort of at a crossroads for where we go as an organization,” Kent said.

Principal Elizabeth Ostberg said the school has a five-year strategic plan in place, but recommended the board consider developing a separate plan for EQA.

“EQA’s plan can’t just be the school’s plan,” Ostberg said.

Ostberg gave a presentation to the board exploring different ideas and models for how to best improve service to its target population.  Ideas included replicating educational services at other school sites, growing its enrollment or adding grade levels, expanding external support services, and developing plans to sustain staff capacity.

Most of the board agreed that it wanted to focus on growth in terms of improvement rather than expanding or creating additional schools.  “I’m not a big fan of increasing size right now,” Ostberg said.

“Improvement is always growth, but growth is not always improvement,” board member Marshall Fitz added.

Kent agreed but wanted the board to stay open to new ideas.

Ostberg and the board discussed different external services that could support students’ needs.  These services include help with transitional housing, homebound services, transportation, daycare for students that are parents, jail-based services, and a construction training program.  Some of these services address persistent risks and obstacles to the student population and could help raise the school’s low attendance numbers, Fitz said.

Ostberg and Kent recommended that the board design a committee to develop a long-term plan and help determine which services EQA should provide, if they would expand to other sites, how to sustain staff and other important issues.  The committee would be a mix of members from the board, school staff and community partners who would serve in advisory roles.

“We need people who know how to develop organizations, people who know how to go from a start-up to something more established.  We don’t know how to do that; we’re going to need help,” Ostberg said.  The board made a list of potential individuals from related fields in New Orleans who could counsel them.

EQA held a brief board meeting before its discussion of strategic planning.  Ostberg said the school applied for more special-education funding from New Schools for New Orleans and is awaiting a decision on that.

The school also hired a new staff member, Sarah McNeil, to perform small group interventions in math and reading.

The NET currently has 156 students enrolled, which exceeded its target of 150.

The NET will host an open-house event at the school, 1614 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., on the evening of Nov. 12.