Superintendent's Principal Council
The Superintendent’s Principal Council is designed to provide council members with an avenue to solve instructional and administrative challenges that exist on the school and district levels.
2021-22 Principal Council Members
Congratulations to the 13 members of our Superintendent's Principal Council.
- Angela Bradley, Dolhonde Elementary
- Julie Broussard, Bridgedale Elementary
- Thomas Chaze, Meisler Middle
- Christina Conforto, Marrero Middle
- Scott Deemer, Matas Elementary
- Angelia Grabert, Pittman Elementary
- Ronda Johnson, Audubon Elementary
- Sharon Meggs-Hamilton, Bonnabel High
- Melanie Moore, Helen Cox High
- Benjamin Moscona, East Jefferson High
- Christopher Oufnac, Adams Middle
- Suzanne Pitre, Kerner Elementary
- Killian Williams-Morantine, Cuillier Career Center
2021-22 Principal Council Meeting Dates
Due to Hurricane Ida, the council will meet three times this school year (instead of four) from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at alternating sites. Principal discussions and input are highly valued and member attendance at all council meetings is encouraged. All meeting attendees will adhere to the health and safety protocols outlined in our Start Strong Jefferson plan.
- December 15, 2021 at the JP Schools Administration Building located at 501 Manhattan Blvd. in Harahan
- February 9, 2022 at the JP Schools Administration Building located at 501 Manhattan Blvd. in Harvey
- April 4, 2022 at the Paul Emenes Building located at 822 S. Clearview Pkwy. in Harahan
Past Principal Councils
2021-22 Principal Council
April 4: The Superintendent's Principal Council began with an introduction from AJ Pethe, Chief of Schools, where he welcomed the members and reviewed the meeting agenda. The group began with a team building activity where the principals broke into groups and were asked to share goals that they would like to accomplish off their bucket list this summer.
Following the team building activity was an introduction to a mental health wellness app that the district will provide to teachers, faculty, and staff as a way to help support mental health. The app offers mindfulness exercises, podcasts, relaxation techniques, and movement exercises. To test the app, the principals participated in chair yoga.
Following the chair yoga exercise was a presentation on monitoring led by Paulette Fairchild, the Director of IDEA where she gave a district breakdown on measurable goals, high school area of concerns, and transitions as it relates to special education students. The council members were then asked to give feedback on how some of the weaknesses can be addressed as well as what were some of the district’s strengths.
The council members then broke into groups divided by elementary, middle, and high school principals where they discussed areas of improvement and strengths amongst their group.
The meeting concluded with Dr. Gray speaking to the principals on investing and building up teachers so that the positive outcomes reflect on kids. “It’s important that we change the dynamic as to how others see teaching,” said Dr. Gray. “How do we get our teachers to speak highly of our profession so that we can get kids to go into education? '' asked Dr. Gray. “We have to figure out how to produce the next wave of educators, not only in JP Schools, but in society as a whole. What I want you all to be able to tell others is that education is hard, but I also want you to be able to tell them that it is rewarding. Look at trying times and trying people as sandpaper. It’s rough, but in the end it polishes you off. You all have done a lot of great things, and I’m proud of the work that you have done from withstanding the pandemic, to overcoming hurricanes.”
February 9: The Superintendent’s Principal Council began with an introduction from AJ Pethe, the Chief of Schools. As a team building activity, each member of the council was given an excerpt from the book “The Power of Positive Leadership” by Jon Gordon. The principals were asked to have a conversation about the excerpt with the person next to them. Each principal was then asked to share with the group what from the excerpt resonated with them the most. “The purpose of this activity is to remind you of the important work that you do,” said Pethe.
Following the team building activity, the group was introduced to Sarah Caruso, Chief Financial Officer, where she explained more information about a digital timekeeping system the district will be implementing next school year. Sarah explained that this was an opportunity to hear from principals about what they may not be thinking about in terms of rolling out this new system. “We want to get every single principal’s feedback about this new system and where they would like this to be placed on their campus,” said Caruso. “Insight from our principals and other stakeholders is critical to rolling out this new system.” She then presented a demo of what the new system would look like and explained how it will work.
The principals then engaged with rapid fire questions, where they had an opportunity to ask questions or voice concerns to Caruso about the digital timekeeping system.
The group was then greeted by Donna Joseph, the Director of Human Resources, where she discussed recruitment and retention. “This is an opportunity for us to discuss how to address the phrase that has been coined as the great resignation, that exists not just in Jefferson Parish, but across our nation,” said Joseph. The council was given a pie chart that showed various efforts to recruit talent. She explained that these efforts may include performance tasks observations, viewing data that drive instruction, and then bringing these individuals to a committee of principals for selection. She also mentioned that the district participates in various career fairs held at several universities. Joseph also mentioned the district’s initiative to combat the teacher shortage by working more closely with career changers to get them certified to become teachers. Additionally, she explained the pipeline and how the district has plans underway to begin conducting teaching certification in-house through a program called EMBARK.
Joseph then encouraged principals to partner new teachers/career changer teachers or teachers who may not be certified with more veteran teachers so that they can make a smoother transition into the profession in order to retain that teacher and not create another vacancy. “We want our people to feel supported by the district, and let them know that we're doing everything to keep them,” said Joseph. She added that the district created incentives for working at target schools that are classified as economically disadvantaged schools. “There is a $2,000 stipend. The district also offers 1,000 stipends to work in a shortage subject area.”
The principals were then instructed to provide feedback on sticky notes about what worked today and what didn't.
The meeting concluded with a message from Dr. Gray where he shared his appreciation for the principals despite the unique challenges they have been faced with.
“The next five years are going to be critical for Jefferson Parish,” said Superintendent Dr. James Gray. “We are working on retention efforts and will reveal what that looks like. Although the work that you do is hard and tough, I appreciate everything you do and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
December 15: The Superintendent’s Principal Council began with a presentation led by Kimberly Buckingham, Thrive Kids Student Wellness Manager for Children’s Hospital. The presentation was centered on virtual care, a program that focuses on improving students’ academic performance through coordinated health care.
The principals then participated in a discussion led by mental health professionals Rochelle Gauthier and Monique Soignet. The council members discussed ways to improve social and emotional wellness, as well as ways to ensure that students and staff feel supported throughout the stressful life events taking place. They then engaged in group discussions where each group discussed ways to bridge social and emotional gaps amongst students.
The last part of the day concluded with a conversation led by Superintendent Dr. James Gray. He spoke to principals and encouraged them to provide feedback regarding what went well and what could be done better or differently for the next meeting.
2020-21 Principal Council
2020-21 Principal Council Members
- Jason Beber, Adams Middle
- Michelle Cojoe, Worley Middle
- Debbie Dantin, Birney Elementary
- Scott Deemer, Matas Elementary
- Donna Donahoe, Cuillier Career Center
- Duane Foret, Gretna Middle
- Angelia Grabert, Pittman Elementary
- Holly Manson, Riviere Elementary
- Christopher Mays, Young Audiences Charter School
- Melanie Moore, Helen Cox High
- Karla Russo, Haynes Advanced Academy for Advanced Studies
- Stephanie Scott, Harahan Elementary
- Kathleen Sullivan, Jefferson Rise
- Cecily White, Woodmere Elementary
2020-21 Principal Council Recaps
April 14: At the fourth and final meeting of the Superintendent’s Principal Council meeting, AJ Pethe, Chief of Schools, opened the meeting and welcomed the group. He then introduced Gabrielle Misfeldt, Chief of Staff, who led a team building activity focused on things our educators gained personally and professionally during the pandemic that they plan to continue. Some of our principals shared utilizing Google classroom and technology, while others dedicated more technology-free time with family. While this year has been challenging, each and everyone of us has gained something, taken up a new hobby or habit and grown in a positive way. It’s important we recognize those skills that will help us transition from this pandemic stronger than before.
The primary focus of the meeting was to preview and garner feedback on our summer learning programs. Laura Roussel, Chief Academic Officer, presented on the Jefferson Summer Learning Program and how it will provide students with additional opportunities for accelerated learning and enrichment during the summer months. She emphasized that it will be accelerated learning to focus on upcoming skills and create a strong bridge to the upcoming year as opposed to remediation, which covers content from the previous year. The 2021 summer program will be expanded in duration, attendance and content to address learning loss resulting from pandemic learning. Goals for the program include:
- Prepare students for the next school year and accelerate any learning gaps in Math and ELA
- Partner with local and national organizations to offer enrichment activities that foster joy and engagement and develop the whole child
- Safely interact with peers in-person and build a sense of community
The principals provided feedback on the criteria for which students will be invited to participate, while prioritizing student’s with the greatest need for content acceleration. Additionally, the group discussed ways to recruit teachers to allow for increased enrollment. We will communicate with all stakeholders as we finalize plans for the summer learning program, including a new name and brand that distinguishes it from previous summer schools.
Superintendent Dr. James Gray closed out the meeting with his appreciation for the Principal Council, and an update on our progress towards the priorities outlined in 2024: The Future our Kid Deserve. While this year has delivered unprecedented challenges, our schools continue to move forward. These councils have provided a lens into the work we’re doing at the district level to support and advance all schools while, in turn, providing a forum for two-way dialogue to shape our work.
February 10: At the third Superintendent’s Principal Council meeting, AJ Pethe, Chief of Schools, opened the meeting with an inspirational video and team building activity on the importance of shared leadership. When geese fly in formation, their flight range is extended by 77%. Similarly, when we tackle hard tasks together and embrace interdependence, we are more effective and can better support our students, teachers and support employees.
Germaine Gilson, Chief of District Affairs, led a discussion focused on the 2021-22 academic calendar. First and foremost, we want to develop a calendar that is student, teacher and family centered. Listed below are some other points taken into consideration when creating the Academic Calendar.
- Reduces the summer learning slide
- Provides frequent breaks, while eliminating mid-week breaks to the extent possible
- Provide opportunities for district professional development
- Adheres to the required 63,720 instructional minutes
- Honors the 183 teacher contract days
The Council discussed several other factors that can impact the calendar, including designated days for teacher preparation, professional development and Parent/Teacher conferences. Additionally, the group identified an opportunity to incorporate intercession days to offer targeted interventions for students and professional development for teachers. Following the meeting, the group provided formal feedback on the 2021-22 Academic Calendar to be considered by the calendar committee.
Additionally, the group delivered rapid fire discussion topics to Dr. Gray and the administration covering common themes including vaccinations, technology integration, LEAP and benchmark assessments, curriculum and SPED support. The feedback and insights garnered from these discussions will be used to improve our processes at the District level and ensure student and teacher success.
Dr. Gray ended the meeting by addressing the group and answering questions about plans for next year. Despite our best laid plans, he said, we may not be able to implement those plans depending on where we are as a parish and country. The district is reviewing options and making plans based on multiple factors. As we keep pushing towards the end of school, he talked about how like a sprinter, we must stay in control and at a steady pace to cross the finish line.
December 16: To wrap up the calendar year, we began the second Superintendent’s Principal Council meeting by setting our one-word intentions for the year. While 2020 was one of the most challenging years many of us have faced personally and professionally, we have a lot to be grateful for as we reflect on how far we have come as a school district. Principals around the room broke into small groups to set their intentions. The responses were inspiring and filled with optimism for what the future holds.
Through these Superintendent Council meetings, faculty meetings, our Start Strong survey and conversations with families, we’ve heard that student and employee mental health is an area of concern. Principals broke into small groups to discuss steps they can take towards improving the mental health on campus. Overall, the common theme was finding opportunities for individual connection and building relationships with students and employees.
Following the discussion, principals participated in a “Community Circle” exercise to build trust and respect utilizing restorative practices. Principals can bring back this new tool to facilitate group sharing to their schools and build Community Circles during faculty meetings and in the classroom. The Student Support team also rolled out cross-collaborative social and emotional rolling PD sessions to support educators' well-being, which are viewable here. We are fortunate to have more than 130 mental health and trauma-informed professionals working in the district to help support this effort.
November 10: At the first Superintendent’s Principal Council meeting of the year, principals laid the groundwork to help set the agenda for future meetings. Dr. Gray welcomed the group and emphasized the importance to understanding and communicating the why and why we made some of the decisions we made this year. He recognized that these are challenging times and that the situation asks a lot of our educators. However, it’s important that we stay motivated and find our cheerleader. When we approach this difficult work with a positive mindset, it puts us all in a better position to be successful.
After the conversation with Dr. Gray, they engaged in a candid conversation around the strengths and challenges of this year. In particular, the group discussed the implications of virtual learning. We are sharing this recap to be transparent with all of our principals and because we used feedback from last year to ensure this information gets out to the group:
SUCCESSES OF VIRTUAL INSTRUCTION
- Influx of Technology
- Equity among students
- Family communication has increased
- Some students are excelling virtually
- Teachers are embracing technology and differentiating instruction
- Safe environment for successful learning
- Lesson expectations are more transparent to families
- Increased student accountability
- Support staff has grown with the curriculum and technology
- Classrooms are more accessible to administrators (virtual walkthroughs)
- More participation from students with critical illnesses
- Continued instruction for quarantined students
- Lower absenteeism/less work to make up
- More in-person engagement
- Increased creativity for teachers and students
- More collaborative between both teachers and students
- Teachers work from home instead of taking leave
CHALLENGES OF VIRTUAL INSTRUCTION
- Technology - learning all of the extensions curve for T & S, Internet issues
- Teaching virtual and in person at the same time
- Virtual school culture including lack participation and attendance, distractions, work integrity and assessments
- Supporting mental health
- Parents doing work for students
- Academic feedback
- Teacher perception/change of mindset
- Cameras and privacy
- Language barriers
- More planning time needed
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Centralized Virtual Jefferson (consider language barriers)
- Interactive lessons/activities to increase engagement (exemplar lessons for specific content CKLA Skills, knowledge, Eureka, etc.)
- Teacher training - technology (2 screens)
- Share curriculum resources between schools
- Less synchronous time for students (less of screen time)
- Parent training (expectations)
- Platform that enables teachers to have security over platform
- Standards instructions
These Superintendent’s Council meetings provide valuable insights to inform and improve our decisions at the district level. Additionally, there will be opportunities to collaborate and learn from one another. We will continue to share these meeting recaps with you and deliver solutions to improve school performance and ease pressure points.
As always, your feedback is important to us, and we encourage all our principals to keep an open dialogue with your executive director and district level administration.
2019-20 Principal Council
- Vanessa Brown-Lewis: West Jefferson High
- Benjamin Moscona: Bridgedale Elementary
- Celest Cunningham: Riverdale Middle
- Scott Deemer: Rudolph Matas School
- Alisha Gilbert: Estelle School
- Demetria Hamilton: Livaudais Middle
- Terri Howard: Emmett Gilbert School
- Brenda Hubbard: Harris Middle
- Karla Russo: Haynes Academy
- John Starr: Tom Benson School
- Tamara Warner: Gretna No. 2 Academy
- Danielle Yunusah: Riverdale High