Education Opinion

Taking Care of Business

By Roslyn Johnson Smith, Ph.D. — November 24, 2007 3 min read
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Yesterday, we had our monthly Board meeting at the school. It was our first chance to hold the meeting in a space that was easily accessible to the public. If we can get our web site up and running, the December meeting will be announced on it and we can hope for our parents and community to become engaged in the running of our school. The meetings are held on Saturday mornings to allow working people to attend. I am looking forward to planting the seeds for a true learning community in Treme.

Even though this is the Bayou Classic weekend in New Orleans, our Southern University board member was the first one to arrive. Dr. Carol McCree drove in from Baton Rouge for the meeting (and the Battle of the Bands, Greek Step Show, Football Game, and Parties). Madonna Green and Eddie Francis, two more Board members arrived right behind her. I was about ten minutes late, still making copies at the last second. We were missing two key people, Bernard Robertson, III and Tracie Washington. Bernard is a former pro football player and this is a very busy time for him. It was Tracie’s birthday and she treated herself to a lazy morning. Both missing members contribute a lot to our operation and sent me long emails with discussion topics that were shared with the other Board members electronically. We had a quorum with the four members present so the business was conducted according to our by-laws.

Even without two officers (Tracie is the Vice-President and Bernard is the Treasurer), we were able to have a very productive meeting. We voted to add an Assistant Principal to the staff. With only 465 students you might wonder “How hard can it be?” We made the decision in anticipation of an influx of students from the neighboring school, Joseph A. Craig Elementary. It was closed last week due to mold, roofing problems, and other structural damage. The students have been relocated to a modular building in East New Orleans, but some parents want the option of schooling closer to their Treme neighborhood. We have a few spots and our enrollment may top 500 after Christmas. Craig is one of two additional schools for which we have applied in the chartering process.

The growing administrative duties are more than the Principal and her administrative assistant can handle. Primarily, we want all of our teachers to have comprehensive assessments of their instructional strengths and weaknesses, regularly scheduled job-embedded professional development, and collaboration with our school improvement consultant. We need a PTA, after school clubs and other components of an effective school. It can all be very challenging as the tasks continue to mount. We are building the proverbial airplane while it is in the air. Hopefully, the new AP will be hired during the next month and will start at the beginning of 2008.

We also voted to purchase expensive science kits for grades 1-8 and a diagnostic test for grades 3-8. The two items will cost about $40,000. But the purchases will allow us to set up a real hands-on science lab and measure the reading levels of our students. I wish we could have done both of these tasks earlier, but we’ve been busy just getting everything up and running.

The decision about whether we will be granted two more charter schools will be announced at the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting on December 6th. If we are granted the two additional schools, we’ll need a CEO. Eddie is a marketing executive so it is his job to write the job announcement for Education Week and the local papers, in anticipation of the award. I don’t know whether getting more schools is good or bad. Actually, I voted against applying for more schools. The vote was 5:1 in favor of applying for Tureaud and Craig. I wanted to make sure we had the first school on target, before applying for more sites, but the timelines are off and we’d have had to miss a year to do things my way.

Finally, we voted on special holiday gifts for the staff (shhhh) and students. Our plans include decorating the school next weekend and sponsoring a door decoration contest for the classes. We also discussed several serious stumbling blocks, but I don’t want to write about them today. It will spoil my good mood.

The opinions expressed in Starting Over: A Post-Katrina Education are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.