Lafayette school officials are poised to start interviewing candidates to be the next principal of Northside High School after spring break and say a new leader for the school could be introduced to the School Board at its first meeting in May.
Interim Superintendent Burnell LeJeune told the School Board at its most recent meeting on April 1 that he planned to move quickly on the position to help ensure an administrator is in place to start planning for the upcoming school year.
He said Thursday that the applications will be reviewed next week when schools are closed for spring break and that interviews will likely begin the week of April 13.
“My goal is to present someone to the board at the first meeting in May,” LeJeune said.
Applications for the job close Friday.
Former Principal Melinda Voorhies resigned from the position March 23, a week after a meeting with LeJeune, who says he informed her that he didn’t think she was the right person to move the school forward. Voorhies had previously resigned from the job in early 2013, but quickly rescinded her resignation before officially stepping down from the role.
Voorhies was recruited out of retirement to take over the school and lead its turnaround in 2012 by then-Superintendent Pat Cooper. She implemented several initiatives to focus on literacy, discipline and student morale.
During her tenure, the school launched a broadcast journalism academy, which started its online radio station a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, the school’s existing legal studies academy continues to bring the school prestige through its successful mock trial team.
Some strategies Voorhies has pursued and the timing of her resignation were criticized during the board’s meeting Wednesday by board member Tehmi Chassion. Chassion said Voorhies had rejected offers of assistance from him and other school system administrators.
No acting principal has been named in Voorhies’ absence. The school’s academic officer, Virginia Rabalais, has been working with the high school’s assistant principals, Barbara Landor and Julia Williams, LeJeune said. He added that retired school system administrator John Lee has been brought in as a substitute assistant principal to provide support to the school, as well.
The school still struggles with improving its performance score, based on the Louisiana Department of Education accountability standards.
Based on 2012-13 student performance, including test scores and graduation rates, the school shook off an F letter grade from the state to improve to a D. However, based on 2013-14 performance measures, the school’s letter grade dropped back to an F as the state’s accountability standards grew more rigorous.
Northside High School is one of three schools in the district that received an F letter grade. Neighboring J.W. Faulk Elementary also received an F, as did N.P. Moss Preparatory, the school system’s alternative education site. N.P. Moss enrolls students who have been removed from their home campuses due to repeat behavioral issues.
LeJeune told the School Board that he’ll present plans for the school system’s D and F schools during a workshop possibly on April 15 before the board’s regularly scheduled meeting that day.
In addition to three school sites with an F letter grade, the school system has nine schools that received a D letter grade, based on state accountability standards. Those schools are: Alice Boucher Elementary, Carencro Heights Elementary, Carencro High, Duson Elementary, Lafayette Middle, S.J. Montgomery Elementary, Ossun Elementary, Westside Elementary and Evangeline Elementary,
District officials attributed the drop in scores at high schools to a transition of overage students — those students who have fallen academically behind — to their age-appropriate campuses.
School staff has recommended the School Board consider increasing class sizes as a way to help offset an estimated $15 million budget shortfall in the general fund.
However, some board members have proposed that D and F schools be protected from any class size changes. That proposal will be considered by the board at its April 15 meeting.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.