Onetha Albert stood in front of about 80 people in the cafeteria at the school that has been known since 2008 as Capitol High Academy and announced many changes Wednesday night.
“The name has changed,” said Albert, the new principal. “We’re going back to Capitol High School.”
Her remark sparked light applause from the audience in the cafeteria of the Baton Rouge public school.
“And we’re going to be one school,” she added, ending a six-year experiment with splitting Capitol into separate boys and girls high schools.
This was the first of three parent meetings that Albert plans in advance of the Aug. 10 start of the 2011-12 school year.
The next meetings are Wednesay and Aug. 3.
Albert took over as principal Monday and is the latest of many principals the school has had since it was taken over by the state for chronic low academic performance three years ago.
“Are you going to be a one and done principal?” asked the Rev. Segmund J. Freeman, a Capitol High graduate and local clergyman.
“It takes about three years to build a school and I plan to build it,” Albert replied.
The “back to the future” theme of Albert’s presentation continued when she displayed the new school logo emblazoned with a lion mascot.
“We tried to go back as much as possible to the original logo,” she said.
Albert recently served as principal at Scotlandville Pre-Engineering Academy, a selective middle school in Baton Rouge that showed some of the strongest improvement in the state a year ago in test scores.
In February, she took a job briefly at a new charter school, The Mentorship Academy, before hearing about the Capitol High opening.
The 100 Black Men Charter School Initiative has overseen the school since it was taken over by the state after years of chronic low academic performance. In February it severed its relationship with the for-profit EdisonLearning, which had operated the school since 2008.
In May, 100 Black Men went further and returned its charter to the state and that charter ended June 30.
The state-run Recovery School District initially planned to hire the organizers of a new charter school called The Career Academy to run Capitol High as well, but Career Academy leaders dropped the idea after facing stiff opposition from East Baton Rouge Parish school leaders.
RSD instead opted to run the school directly and hired Albert as principal.
Albert on Wednesday also introduced her administrators, assistant principals Sheronda Webb and Casey Smith, and football coach Damien Mills.
The only holdover from the past is Alvin Stewart, longtime athletic director and member of Capitol’s faculty for the past 25 years.
“I am here because I want to be here,” Stewart told the audience. “I love the kids, I love the community, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Others in the audience would like to return as well.
Jessica Rosen, an English teacher at Capitol from January to May, was one of about 30 employees laid off in June when 100 Black Men returned the school’s charter.
She has reapplied to work at the school.
“Other than Coach Stewart do you intend to hire any of the teachers that were here last year?” Rosen asked.
“I will hire the best candidates,” Albert replied.
Tonya Moore, one of four siblings who attended Capitol, is sending her daughter Ke-nisha and niece Johnisha to the school this year where they will be freshmen.
“Are we going to have a dance club,” Moore asked.
“Well, if you have dance, you need to have a band,” Albert replied. “I’ve been asking for a band director for a week and I got here Monday.”
Albert said the school will focus on three academic areas its first year: offering more honors and Advanced Placement courses; focusing more effort into science technology engineering and math instruction, and more performing arts opportunities.
After the meeting, Albert said she would like to bring a lot more to the school but needs to increase the projected enrollment from 160 students. The school as recently as 1999 had more than 1,000 students.
“We need more students,” she said.
For more information, Albert said to call the school’s office at (225) 383-0353. She said she hopes to have a school website operating by next week.