Board Member Focus: Alysson Mills, Choice Foundation and Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans

AllysonMills-sqHow did you become involved with these charter schools?
Jim Swanson, who is my boss and also a great mentor, invited me to join the board.

Why did you say yes when asked to serve?
Well, one, Jim Swanson is my boss. But really, far more than that, Choice is an amazing organization. During the last school year, Choice educated more than 1,900 students in grades pre-K through eight. All three of its elementary schools — Lafayette Academy, Esperanza Charter School and McDonogh 42 Charter School — are open enrollment. More than 90% of its students receive free or reduced lunch, and at Esperanza English is a second language for six out of ten students. Despite what some may view as learning disadvantages, Choice’s students excel. Since 2008, when Mickey Landry took over as CEO, school performance scores at Choice’s schools have risen annually.

What was compelling about the opportunity?
I went to public schools my whole life. I’m from a small town in Mississippi, and there really was only one school to attend. I think I got a great public education, but I admit I am a little envious of the opportunities public charter schools offer this city’s kids. Being a part of public education in New Orleans was and is exciting to me. I am not only involved with Choice, I am also involved in Lycée Français. Unlike Choice, which takes over and turns around struggling schools, Lycée Français is a start-up. There are lycée français, or French schools, in every major city, but they are expensive. Lycée Français of New Orleans intends to be the first public, i.e., free, K-12 lycée français in the nation.

What leadership roles have you held while serving on the board?
Currently, I am secretary of Choice’s board. I am chair of Lycée Français’ board.

Is there anything you know now that you wish you had known before?
There’s a lot I still don’t know! I finally made a cheat sheet of public education acronyms. I wish I’d done that earlier!