LAFAYETTE — Northside High Principal Melinda Voorhies may get the chance to hand-pick her staff for the next school year if the School Board approves a recommendation to “reconstitute” the low-performing school.
The board will consider the reconstitution recommendation, which would enable Voorhies to choose her own staff, at its 5:30 p.m. meeting on Wednesday. Current employees would be eligible to reapply for their positions.
Schools Superintendent Pat Cooper said Monday that a principal has “the greatest chance of success” if he or she is given the ability to select his or her own staff.
Cooper said that the recommendation to reconstitute Northside is based on such factors as dropout and attendance rates and on preliminary data that points to the school not meeting the state’s minimum accountability requirements.
“It’s all geared to the (school’s) overall performance and the fact that the performance has been poor for a while now,” Cooper said.
Student performance data that has been made public shows the school will be designated as a low-performing school and could fall to a designation of academically unacceptable. The minimum accountability score to escape an academically unacceptable rating is 75. Last year, Northside’s score was 67.7.
Schools designated as academically unacceptable for four consecutive years are eligible for state takeover. A reconstitution enables a school to press the reset button on its accountability score time line, school authorities have said.
In 2011, Northside failed to make sufficient progress in reading, math and graduation rates, according to data on the school’s performance. The school’s graduation rate for the 2010-11 school year was 59 percent, the lowest among the district’s five traditional high schools, according to the data.
In February, the School Board approved a $2.1 million reform plan for the school that involved renovations to the campus and greater academic and administrative support. As part of the plan, new administrators, an additional counselor and assistant principal, a new position of dean of students, a classroom instructional strategist and other additional positions were given to the school to help boost its performance.
Voorhies signed up for the Northside job through the end of the school year. Cooper said the retired educator has decided to stay at the school and lead it through the next phase of its turnaround. Voorhies could not be reached for comment Monday.
Cooper started the job as superintendent in January, and the Northside plan was his first major initiative. He said Monday that the turnaround plan was implemented too late to make a “great deal” of difference in this year’s scores.
“The most critical piece of any successful school is that you have a principal who has a staff that he or she has chosen,” Cooper said. “We don’t need a charter. We don’t need a state takeover. We know how to fix our schools,”
In late 2010, the School Board voted to close one of its habitually low-performing schools — N.P. Moss Middle School — to evade a potential state takeover. The building site is now the home of Thibodaux Career and Technical High School.
The last time the board voted to reconstitute a school was in 2009 to address low performance at Alice Boucher Elementary. As part of that reconstitution, a stipend program was created to attract and retain teachers and other certified personnel. Cooper said no additional funding is expected with the Northside reconstitution.