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Akili Academy’s principal steps down from her job

Akili Academy’s principal has stepped down from her position, and the CEO of the charter organization that runs the school has taken her place.

Crescent City Schools Chief Executive Officer Kate Mehok assumed the role of interim principal of Akili Academy on Monday, and former principal Julie MacFetters is now Akili’s third and fourth grade director of curriculum and instruction, Mehok said.

Julie MacFetters

Julie MacFetters

Mehok will continue to serve as the organization’s CEO, and will remain Akili’s interim principal until the group hires a permanent one. Crescent City likely will release a job description within the next week, and will look to have a new principal in place by the 2014-2015 school year.

The change was part of Akili’s fulfillment of its mission, Mehok said – ensuring that Akili’s students meet their academic goals. Adding MacFetters to the school’s instructional team will do that, since classroom instruction is one of MacFetters’s strengths, she said.

“I’m feeling really good about Julie [MacFetters] being able to spend more time in the classroom,” Mehok said.

The school’s announcement of the switch comes just two weeks after Crescent City’s Nov. 20 board meeting, in which the board went into executive session to discuss the character or competence of one of its employees. Mehok confirmed Tuesday that the employee discussed was MacFetters.

Kate Mehok

Kate Mehok

The move also comes less than two months after the release of the school’s performance score. Akili received a “C” grade this year under the state’s new grading system. But had it been judged under the old grading system, it would have gotten a “D” and an 85.5 score, more than 10 points lower than its 96.2 “C” score in 2012.

The state released what schools would have scored under the old system and the new system when October’s scores came out, to better show comparison.

This was MacFetters’ third year heading the school. Before becoming principal, she was the school’s director of student support and a founding first grade teacher. Before arriving at Akili she worked at KIPP McDonogh 15 and with Teach For America.

Since November, Crescent City is the fourth organization to announce school leadership changes. Sylvanie Williams College Prep Principal Heidi Campbell will move into another role with four-school charter group New Orleans College Prep at the end of this school year, former KIPP New Orleans Leadership Academy Principal Jared Lamb was replaced by Jonny Bartlett on Nov. 11, and Homer A Plessy Community School Principal Sara Leikin resigned under pressure from the school’s board Nov. 5.

Also, the International High School of New Orleans was searching for a replacement for Head of School Anthony Amato, who was not going to return to that job next year, at the time of his death on Monday. The school’s board renewed Amato’s contract for only one year when it expired in July.

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About Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her reporting on charter school transparency and governance. In 2012, she was part of a team that received a National Edward R. Murrow Award for their work following a New Orleans family's recovery after Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Edna Karr Secondary School in Algiers, and she obtained her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. She can be reached at (504) 575-8191.

  • nickelndime

    These nonprofit charter groups (Crescent City Schools, KIPP, FirstLine, New Orleans College Prep…) continue to spend way too much money on administrative and non-teaching personnel (CEOs, principals, directors, deans, COOs, CAOs, CFOs…) and it has gone on for too long. Kleban’s (NOCP) offers a $10,000 finder’s fee, Coughig III’s (IHS) will spend $30,000 to find a new head. What is/was Mehok’s salary? Kleban? Amato? So does Mehok collect a salary for being the CEO AND the interim principal, like Jay Altman did because he was “filling in” for somebody in another position (Times-Picayune Archive 2009)?

  • Lee Barrios

    I don’t believe it is “legal” policy for the CEO to serve as principal. For bio us reasons. I will check.

  • Lee Barrios

    That should have read “obvious” reasons

  • Lee Barrios

    Charter School Law Part VI, Chapter 42, Sec. 3991A(c)(I). A charter school shall be prohibited from employing, in any manner,any member of the governing or management board of such school.

  • nickelndime

    Jay Altman “did” it 2009 and Kate Mehok is “doing” it now in 2013. You are damn rite, it’s not legal, but the system is broken.

  • Jessica Williams

    Hi Lee (and nickelndime):

    A charter management organization’s CEO is not considered to be a member of the school’s governing or management board. Rather, that official runs the organization, and they report to and answer to the nonprofit board. I believe this law was intended to apply to those nonprofit board members, who are not permitted to be employed by the school, to avoid conflicts of interest.

    There are many principals that effectively act as CEOs of their charter schools – the principals of Moton, Sophie B. Wright, Coghill, Harney, and several other standalone charter schools all come to mind.

  • nickelndime

    Hey Jessica, Glad to see you are on your toes as usual! Of course Lee is correct in her citation of Charter School Law and employing board members. Yes, CEOs are school employees (legal), and NOT board members. If you reread my posts, the 2nd is rather ambiguous (supportive of Lee because it all stinks anyway – even if it is legal – right church, wrong pew). However, what people like Jay Altman (paid one-third more salary in the absence of a principal = “did it in 2009,” and Kate Mehok “do” (will she receive extra pay also? = “doing it in 2013”) is unethical, excessive, working the system, and should be considered as gouging the public. The State/RSD has no honest intention of allowing any eligible schools to return to local control (OPSB), and with the right key people in place (seeding), these boards (e.g., FirstLine – loaded with the likes of St. Etienne, Rosenthal, etc.), will ensure the continuation of State control. You have seen it in print (one RSD board after the other). Hell, NOCP didn’t even satisfy open meetings law when it voted! “It’s a board decision.” Yeah, right. At the end of the school day and the school year, these CMOs (with their CEOs, CAOs, COOs, CFOs, multi principals, deans…) will run more schools and expand throughout the state. They just can’t lose. So, who is going to stop it? Public education is a billion-dollar business.