Jefferson board approves school chief’s contract

The Jefferson Parish School Board approved Superintendent James Meza’s new contract Wednesday night, extending Meza’s term until June 30, 2014.

Meza was appointed as interim superintendent in 2011 to succeed Diane Roussel when she retired. During his short tenure he has instituted major reforms in the state’s largest district.

The vote to approve Meza’s contract was unanimous, with Cedric Floyd as the only board member absent. The board also unanimously voted for new officers, electing Larry Dale as next year’s board president and Mike Delesdernier as the vice president.

Current board president Mark Jacobs called Dale, nominated by board member Mark Morgan, a “wise choice.” Dale said Delesdernier, who was nominated by Sandy Denapolis-Bosarge, often takes a “different path towards things.” Dale described himself as “more easy-going” and said Delesdernier, will be “a good check on me.”

Meza’s contract includes some specific performance objectives he must meet, with a focus on student achievement that sets targets for student, school and district performance in line with the state’s targets for the district.

Initiatives in the contract include plans to improve low-performing schools, provide better support for students learning English and enrich college and career-readiness for middle and high school students.

“The district’s work will always be driven by student achievement and how we can improve the quality of education for all children in Jefferson Parish,” Meza said in a news release. “The performance objectives and targets in the contract provide a snapshot of where the district stands currently, and where we intend to go through continued reform efforts.”

The contract also outlines plans to improve financial efficiency, accountability for all staff and efforts to ensure the district is recruiting, supporting and retaining high quality employees.

“The objectives that we approved for Dr. Meza are consistent with the reforms that the district has already started, and we are confident that he and his team will successfully continue this work on behalf of the students and families in Jefferson Parish,” Jacobs said in a news release.

“As a district, we are shifting to a culture of accountability and performance, where every employee is held to high expectations,” Meza said. “The end goal for all of us is making sure that Jefferson Parish children receive a world-class education, and through these objectives, I am being held accountable to the same high bar.”

During the public comment period, teacher David Prentice expressed concern about the lack of a collective bargaining agreement between the board and the Jefferson Federation of Teachers. A veteran of 14 years, he said he does not have job security and noted that the most effective means of teaching is not by computers but by direct instruction. The state can’t “replicate teachers with trained monkeys turning on and off computers.”

JFT President Meladie Munch said she is also looking forward to a collective bargaining agreement, a new contract she hopes “passes unanimously like Dr. Meza’s contract.”

A redistricting plan was also presented at the meeting by Glenn Koepp of Redistricting LLC for a first reading. The new plan will be voted on at a Dec. 19 meeting.