By Marsha Sills
June 13, 2012
LAFAYETTE — In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the Lafayette Parish School Board approved a major makeover for Northside High School that involves restaffing the school and giving it a fresh start for its state accountability scores.
The board’s 7-0 approval to reconstitute, or restaff, the school enables the school to essentially hit the “reset” button on its accountability scores.
Northside is the lowest performing high school in the district based on several factors, including attendance and graduation rates and state accountability scores.
Preliminary data also showed the school likely would be labeled academically unacceptable by the state this year.
Interviews of school staff began last week, with the exception of three staff members who opted to wait to interview until after the board’s vote on the reconstitution, the school’s principal, Melinda Voorhies, told board members Wednesday.
Board members voting in favor of reconstituting Northside High School were: Mark Allen Babineaux, Mark Cockerham, Kermit Bouillion, Shelton Cobb, Hunter Beasley, Tommy Angelle and Tehmi Chassion.
Board members Rae Trahan and Greg Awbrey were absent.
Babineaux called the reconstitution plan “sketchy” in comparison with plans for reconstitutions of N.P. Moss and Alice Boucher Elementary schools, which involved initiatives ranging from new programs to a stipend program to attract and retain teachers.
Although Babineaux said he was disappointed in the “sketchiness” of plans for Northside, he said he is confident the school will make progress.
Cobb said he also expected to see a detailed plan presented on Wednesday.
Babineaux questioned why staff did not recommend a reconstitution before the board was asked to approve a turnaround plan in February for the school that involved a $2.1 million in facility upgrades and a new administration and support staff.
Assistant Superintendent Sandra Billeaudeau said it was necessary to implement the turnaround plan first to address health and safety issues for students and get leadership in place to move the school forward.
The board is being asked to give Voorhies an opportunity to create a team that will produce results, Billeaudeau said.
“I don’t diminish the efforts of the past, but I respectfully ask, have they worked?” Billeaudeau said.
Babineaux asked Voorhies how she planned to recruit teachers to the school.
“I can’t tell you the number of emails and phone calls that we’re receiving,” Voorhies responded. “ I’m not real concerned about that ... because we have people who are wanting to come to Northside.”
Billeaudeau said Voorhies “ has created a culture in the school and a school climate where the message and vision she’s created in the school has spread throughout this district and people are contacting her,”
Voorhies came out of retirement to lead the school through the turnaround. Her contract was set to expire with the school year, but she agreed to stay on as its leader.
In the past few months, professional development opportunities have increased for faculty with the addition of an instructional strategist to the staff, Voorhies said.
Parental involvement has improved at the school, she said.
“I just want to shout out an amen for the parental involvement,” Angelle said, commending Voorhies for reaching out to more parents.
The next step is for Voorhies and her staff to develop a strategy for the school based on the Louisiana Department of Education’s dropout prevention plan, according to information presented to the board Wednesday.