The board of directors of the Morris Jeff Community School is hoping to improve communication with school officials, board members said during a board orientation session Saturday morning.

By the end of the three-hour retreat, board members had agreed to draft a principal’s compact, or an agreement between Principal Patricia Perkins and the board. The primary draft of the compact — an agreement between two parties — is slated for review at the November board meeting.

The compact would put process and deadlines in place to help board members collect data from the school, such as financial information, academic information, a copy of the school’s improvement plan and more, board members said.

“It’s very simple,” Board President Wanda Anderson-Guillaume said. “It also becomes part of the evaluation process. Right now, the evaluation process is very fragmented.”

Anderson-Guillaume and other board members said they wanted information about the school’s processes in a more timely manner so they could better help oversee and govern.

“In retrospect, Patricia is a new principal. How much support are we giving her to grow?” Anderson-Guillaume added.

The discussion came up in part because the board was supposed to review school-set goals during Saturday’s meeting, and help use those goals to kickstart a brainstorming session about the board’s goals for helping the school function at its best.

The scheduled discussion about school and board goals was on the agenda for Saturday’s meeting. However, because Perkins didn’t turn in the school goals in time for the meeting, the board couldn’t move forward, Anderson-Guillaume said.

“When something is due, it’s due,” Anderson-Guillaume said. “Maybe it’s time to begin adding some specificity to that to add to the level of oversight and governance.”

Board member Catherine Pacyna also suggested setting school goals for Morris Jeff officials, then asking them to come up with ways to meet them.

“Maybe we change how we’re asking for information,” Pacyna said. “Maybe we give her a starting point.”

Board members agreed that it was important to help direct the school on how to move forward academically.

“Is our goal to be an A school, if we also want to be open access and maintain the diversity we have?” asked board secretary Jennifer Weishaupt.

The board’s vice president, Aesha Rasheed, agreed that it was an important question.

“For me, it’s how we’re getting to those goals,” Rasheed said, adding that if the school became an “A” school in a short period of time it “would actually be a really horrible experience for the kids,” which she said she didn’t want.

To help answer some of those questions, board members suggested initiating a monthly dashboard process for getting data on academic achievement.

“First, let’s get educated on what they’re tracking and how,” said board member Heather Schwartz. “Ideally we’d like to see their processes. Then we can see if there’s things we can augment to what they’re doing internally.”

During the meeting, Anderson-Guillaume also talked about some of her goals as the new board president. She said she had been thinking a lot about dissemination of Morris Jeff’s model as a diverse, open-access school that’s certified to be part of the International Baccalaureate Organization.

“Why aren’t we talking to other people about spreading the word and replicating the model?” she asked.

She also said that she wanted to track the students’ succession plans.

“What happens to our students after eighth grade?” Anderson-Guillaume asked. She was referring to students who would graduate from the school several years from now, when the it expands all the way to eighth grade.

Right now, the school goes up to fifth grade, and is adding a grade every year.

“Are we going to track our students and provide support through college?” she added. “Where are they going from here?”

Board members suggested conducting exit interviews for students, and agreed to examine that possibility in the future.

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...