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IHS enrollment surge, OneApp quirks preoccupy VIBE board; Doha class reviewed

Directors of the International High School of New Orleans moved the search for a new school leader into the homestretch and heard concerns about the OneApp process at their Feb. 19 meeting.

Interim head of school Nan Ryan said numbers from the Recovery School District-run OneApp process currently show enrollment ballooning to 615 for the 2014-15 school year, an increase of 150.

As of Feb. 1, the enrollment stood at 465 students, but several board members questioned whether the number had been adjusted for attrition.

Ryan also reported irregularities in the application process. Some students who signed up for French and Spanish immersion programs were later found not to speak a second language, as required, she said.

Ryan said she was scheduling a meeting with the Recovery School District to address the issue.

While officials might not want the growth to come so rapidly, Harry Blumenthal, chair of the board’s finance committee, noted that the school’s enrollment has grown over the past four years. In 2011-12, the freshman class had 92 students at the end of the year. On Feb. 1, 2014, the freshman class enrollment was 150 students, Blumenthal said.

“It’s a nice problem to have to worry about,” Blumenthal said of the continuing growth. He suggested that the board — formally known as The Voices for International Business and Education (VIBE) — begin to think long-term about the maximum number of students they want at the school.

The hunt for a new school leader began last May when the late Anthony Amato was granted a one-year contract extension. Upon Amato’s death in December, Ryan was named interim head of school for the remainder of the year.

Over the past month, the search committee trimmed its ranks to fewer than five members, as recommended, and Boston-based search consultant Carney, Sandoe and Associates whittled the list of candidates to 25. About seven finalists will be selected in March, committee chair Ed Graf said.

The search committee met following Wednesday’s meeting to discuss a way to evaluate the 25 candidates that would keep their names private while complying with the state Open Meetings Act.

Holding a search-committee meeting could reveal the names of the 25 candidates, which could put them in jeopardy with current employers who do not know they are applying for other jobs, Graf said.

“It’s a blind search at this point,” he said.

To evaluate the candidates without holding a meeting, Graf proposed that committee members evaluate application information separately, then score the candidates using a previously agreed-upon rubric. Committee members accepted the arrangement.

Once the finalists are identified and interviews begin, the names are likely to be revealed, Graf said.

In other business, the board voted to join the East Bank Collaborative of Charter Schools, which provides communications, legal and technical support to member schools. Collaborative director Rose Drill-Peterson gave a presentation at the board’s January meeting. Ryan said she has worked with Drill-Peterson on many occasions over the years.

Several board members said they felt membership could be beneficial, but wanted to be sure they were getting their money’s worth. Collaborative membership is $2,000 a month. VIBE will have an option to re-up in October, but board members said the occasion should be used to evaluate whether membership has been beneficial.

“When you pay that much you hopefully get something commensurate in return,” board president Robert Couhig III said.

Couhig reported that auditors found a financial discrepancy of $362 in last year’s financial records. The money was paid, and the school has been deemed in compliance.

Ryan reported on a “global classroom exchange,” a video link that allowed students to attend classes with a boys’ school in Doha, Qatar. Teachers from the two schools collaborated on lessons in Arabic, English and biology, Ryan said.

“We completed a lab with them,” biology teacher Jeramie Foret said. “The kids got so much out of it.”

Ryan laid the groundwork for the program on a trip to Qatar in the fall. While this week’s sessions were successful, more technology would be required to make the exchange a more permanent part of the school’s curriculum, she said.

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