May 282014
 

The International School of Louisiana'a Camp Street campus.

The International School of Louisiana’a Camp Street campus.

The International School of Louisiana will become the latest New Orleans charter school to offer healthcare benefits to its employees’ same-sex partners, after a vote Wednesday night that board members deemed “symbolic.”

The proposal, technically called a “domestic partner benefit,” would apply to all employees in unmarried relationships, without specifying any sexual orientation. Employers often use the domestic-partner classification to extend employment benefits (including in the city of New Orleans) to same-sex couples in states such as Louisiana where it is illegal for them to marry.

“Over the years, our employees, who are coupled without judicial or legislative recognition of their relational bonds, have not been afforded the opportunity to have healthcare coverage through ISL’s employment option,” said Head of Schools Sean Wilson at Wednesday night’s meeting of the school’s governing board.

Creating the domestic partner benefit has two goals — one philosophical, and one practical, Wilson said. First, it aligns with the school’s mission of embracing diversity. Secondly, it becomes another recruiting tool as the school competes for new faculty members.

Most of the International School’s board members expressed support for the change, but had several questions. Mike Lappa and Andrew Yon both asked Wilson whether the change would come into conflict with state law — which offers little support for same-sex unions — but Wilson pointed out that other schools in the area have already made similar policy changes. For example, Lusher Charter School approved a similar measure extending benefits to same-sex couples in 2013.

Lappa also asked Wilson about the cost of the change. The school’s healthcare coverage currently covers 80 percent of an employee’s premium, but the employee must pay the premium for family members, Wilson replied. Likewise, the employee will still have to pay for the domestic partner’s premiums, but will have the option of getting them insured at the school’s rates.

“It costs us nothing to have this option,” Wilson said.

Board member John Wettermark questioned whether the policy creates the potential for abuse, such as for someone to try to get coverage for a roommate. Wilson replied that the insurance company handles the process for establishing domestic partnership, and it is preferable for the school not to get involved in those details.

Two board members, Chantell Reed and Barbara Griffin, asked that the issue be tabled so they could learn more about it. Board member Brenda Richard-Montgomery said that the school is hiring now, however, and needs to be able to say whether it will offer the benefit or not.

The board considered briefly whether their vote was even needed, or merely “symbolic,” but Wettermark said that symbolic or not, the vote would send a positive message. The board then voted 7-0 in favor of the policy change with Reed and Griffin abstaining.

New Head of Schools
The marquee issue of the evening, the selection of Camp Street principal Melanie Tennyson as the new Head of School after Wilson leaves this summer to lead another charter school, passed with relatively little discussion. Promoting Tennyson has long been the board’s “contingency plan” for Wilson’s eventual departure, and over the past month, the board’s Head of School search committee quickly came to the consensus of offering Tennyson a three-year contract, board chair Matt Amoss said Wednesday.

Amoss reiterated his praise for Wilson’s tenure as Head of School and his confidence that Tennyson is the right person to carry that work forward, and the board entered a 30-minute executive session to discuss offering her the contract. When they returned, they voted to enter negotiations with Tennyson — with little further comment other than applause from the audience.

* * *

Wednesday’s wide-ranging meeting also included criticism from an incoming Parent-Teacher Organization officer about the lack of diversity on the school’s governing board. Amoss and Yon’s terms on the board will end in August, and one position is currently opening, so board members invited her to participate in the nominating process.

To read our live coverage of the meeting, see below.

  • Know the Truth

    Once again. Parents at the school where not informed of this meeting. I am only stating that, I have no comment on the issues.

  • Devin Johnson

    KNOW THIS—- it’s right on their website buddy. very easy to find if you bother to look: http://isl-edu.org/about-isl/board-of-trustees/meeting-dates

    and if you read the live coverage of the meeting in the boxy thing above, you’ll see the vice president of the PTO was there too, so clearly someone knew…

  • Beth

    Hello Know the truth. I am the outgoing PTO president and a concerned parent. During my 6 years as an ISL parent (and my two years looking at ISL before so had a child there) I have considered myself an informed parent. I only began attending board of trustees meetings once I became PTO president two academic years ago. I have always read the Uptown messenger articles about our BOT meetings. Many times I read them live. The PTO created a Facebook page in September 2012 to help get information to parents. I understand that not everyone is on FB, but we are proud of the 143 group members we have to date. It is our hope that even if someone is not on FB that they have a concerned parent friend who is and who can help them stay informed. I personally posted a combination of Uptown Messenger articles about this search for head of schools process as well as commentary about how important it was for parents to participate in the process on May 1, May 7, and May 13. I went to the 5/14 and 5/21 meetings. (I was unable to attend yesterday. But I read this article as soon as I could). There were no more than 4 parents at those two search committee meetings. We also urged parents at the PTO meeting to attend, however, the only parents in attendance were the extended steering committee members and some spouses.

    ISL would be served well by more parental engagement. By that I mean people ready to show up and work towards a better ISL. I can only recommend that you and more parents take a more active roll in being informed about your child’s school. There are many important issues in our future… An impending much-needed RSD facility renovation, lack of space on Camp street, and now Ms. Tennyson’s transition away from Camp and Olivier Principal to Head of Schools. Show up and make your voice heard.