School head alters plans

Issues ironed out, superintendent says

Northside High principal Melinda Voorhies, who submitted a letter of resignation to Superintendent Pat Cooper on Wednesday, has decided to remain in the job, according to a joint announcement Voorhies and Cooper issued Thursday.

Cooper said both educators agreed not to discuss what led Voorhies to submit the resignation letter, which she has now rescinded.

“She had sent me a letter of resignation yesterday afternoon, but I did not accept it. We talked this morning. Whatever misunderstandings there were, we worked out,” Cooper said in an interview.

Voorhies was recruited out of retirement to lead the school’s turnaround plan, which was implemented in February. She had recruited her own support team of seven new staffers, many of whom also left retirement to work with her again.

In the joint statement issued Thursday, Voorhies said Cooper has been supportive of efforts to improve the school.

“I love the Northside High School community, and I appreciate Dr. Cooper’s support for our work there. I look forward to continuing the work we’ve begun in creating a school that inspires our students to achieve and succeed,” Voorhies said in the statement.

Voorhies was not available at the school Thursday for additional comment.

Cooper, in an interview, characterized the cause of Voorhies’ resignation letter as a “miscommunication and a misunderstanding.”

“I think she’s done such a phenomenal job at Northside. I don’t think that anyone else could do what she’s done. I was adamant to figure out what the problem was and fixing it that because she’s worth more than her weight in gold,” Cooper said.

The school, which was in danger of receiving an “academically unacceptable” performance ranking from the Louisiana Department of Education, was reconstituted over the summer. The action pushed the “reset” button on the school’s accountability scores and also enabled Voorhies to hand-pick her staff. Some longtime teachers and coaches were transferred to other schools and some opted to retire.

This fall, the school’s performance ranking improved by 10 points for a new score of 76.7 — above the minimum accountability standard of 75.

Northside High’s turnaround plan included about $2 million in additional staffing and facility improvements and was the first major initiative Cooper asked the board to support when he started as superintendent in January. Another $2 million in school facility improvements is also planned.

Voorhies started at the school in February and was scheduled to remain until May; however, she opted to extend her stay for two years.

In October, Voorhies told The Advocate she her two assistant principals — Barbara Landor and Laura Adams — nudged her into remaining at the school to finish what she started.

“This is what they said: ‘Melinda, how can you leave and not finish what you started? We’re on the right track. We’ve made all kinds of strides. You can’t leave.’ And they were right,” Voorhies said in that interview.