Orleans School Board holds retreat in Texas

The Orleans Parish School Board members are in Houston for a retreat to improve “efficiency and effectiveness of meetings in order to minimize meeting time and to maximize the percentage of time spent focusing on student achievement.”

A second goal for the retreat, which began Thursday and continues Friday, is to “improve policies and practices regarding the use of committees.”

The board has three new members as of January, and much of the attention at its February and March meetings was spent on the nullification of the contract for Kathleen Padian, deputy superintendent for charter schools.

Another issue in the spotlight was the initially blocked, and then approved, use of a tax credit mechanism for construction on Phillis Wheatley Elementary School.

Both matters caused considerable divisiveness and disagreement between the board members.

The retreat is being hosted by Center for Reform of School Systems, whose stated mission is to “teach school board members and superintendents how to transform their districts for high student achievement.”

According to a report from the Lens, the training will cost $10,000, which will be covered by the nonprofit organization Stand for Children. Public funds will cover approximately $2,000 in plane tickets and $159 a night for the Omni Hotel where the training is being held. The Lens also reported that six of the board members are attending, with Sarah Usdin absent due to prior travel plans.

Stand for Children is working with the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives to facilitate the team-building and management training opportunity for the board.

“Stand Parents aren’t ready to give up on the potential of this board to work together for the benefit of all kids in New Orleans,” Westley Bayas, New Orleans city director for Stand for Children, said in an email.

“With new school board members just elected to the board, now is a better time than ever to do our part to help them build their capacity as a board to make decisions that make sure great schools have what they need to continue to succeed and that give struggling schools what they need to improve,’’ he said in the email.