NOLA Public Schools' West Bank headquarters. (Marta Jewson/The Lens) Credit: Marta Jewson / The Lens

The NOLA Public Schools district has hired an Assistant Director of High School Accountability, a position created in the wake of the graduation scandal at John F. Kennedy High School last spring.

So it’s no surprise that Max Daigh spent one of his first days on the job at Kennedy, reviewing student files last week. 

The problems, first alleged by a former employee and eventually fleshed out by contractors, led to nearly half the senior class being unable to graduate on time. Many of the affected students didn’t learn they would need additional credits until June, a month after they had been allowed to walk at the school’s graduation ceremony.  

The fallout sent dozens of students to unplanned summer school classes and led Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. to call for a citywide audit of all high school student records. Shortly thereafter the district began advertising for a new position — Assistant Director of High School Accountability. Daigh was hired for that position.  

Daigh’s job is to ensure students are properly accumulating credits at the district’s charter schools. He previously worked as a teacher through Teach for America in Missouri and later as a Manager of School Performance for the Louisiana Department of Education.

For the last two years he’s worked as a regional director for the California Charter School Association, according to his online resume. 

At first glance, Daigh’s experience doesn’t quite match the counselor-expertise heavy job description the district posted in July. 

The job description said the person selected would serve as a “resident expert” in Louisiana high school credit accumulation. 

It asked candidates to have a current Louisiana teaching certificate and the ability to become a guidance counselor. Daigh doesn’t have a Louisiana teaching license or authorization, according to state records. It said applicants with at least five years experience as high school guidance counselors were preferred. It doesn’t appear from state records that Daigh has the appropriate Louisiana state credentials to be a guidance counselor. Daigh could not be reached for comment on this story. 

NOLA Public Schools Communications Director Tania Dall released a statement in response to The Lens’ questions about Daigh’s experience. 

“NOLA-PS found a candidate with previous experience that our Leadership Team felt would do a great job in this role,” the statement, attributed to NOLA-PS, read. 

The statement said the district had to speed up its timeline this summer to be ready to review schools in the fall. 

When the job description was originally posted, the district assumed that the new assistant director would have to design an “audit tool” to evaluate high schools. But the district instead developed the tool on its own. 

“Thus, the scope of the work of this role expanded to include execution of the tool,” the statement said. That includes a “heavy focus on accountability, in addition to analyzing trends to determine, and develop training and resources to assist schools in meeting the requirements.”

On Tuesday, Daigh and his new supervisor, Chief Portfolio Innovation and Accountability Officer Kelli Peterson, reviewed Kennedy student files using the new “credit accumulation compliance review,” the district’s name for the audit tool. 

The review includes a check of how many credits a student has, whether they’ve earned those credits through traditional or remedial courses — one of the issues at the center of the Kennedy graduation scandal — and which of several state diplomas they are seeking. Students must also have a state-required “Individual Graduation Plan” that is signed by their parent, counselor and student themselves. 

It calls for the student’s name and name of the district employee who determines whether or not the several aspects of the students file are “in compliance,” “out of compliance,” or somewhere in the middle. 

The district oversees 24 charter high schools and two so-called “contract high schools.” 

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...