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Master teachers, monthly deficits and compliance with 70% MFP requirement stir board debate

The Dryades Y/ James M. Singleton Charter School Board of Directors met Sept. 20, with 10 of 17 members present. Those absent were:  John Calhoun, Ron Sholes, Sidney Cates, Lance Eden, Jacque Jackson, Mary Joseph, and Barbara Lacen Keller. A reporter for The Lens was the meeting’s only audience member. In addition, two men, identified on the visitor’s sheet as Mr. Shah and Mr. Washington, stayed briefly to make a short presentation.

The meeting ran from a little after noon until 1:50 p.m.

Following approval of the last meeting’s minutes, updates to the board began with Mr. Shah, the Dryade’s YMCA Natatorium and Wellness Center engineer, assuring the board that all major impediments to construction had been resolved and that the center will open before the end of the calendar year.  Staffing and equipment costs were touched upon; a spending window was outlined and the whole measure was then unanimously approved.

Members then approved a resolution to unanimously designate Douglas Evans as the board’s CEO/President for the period of one year.

Catrina Reed, CFO offered the Finance Committee Report, including bank reconciliations, for the months of May-July.  Jim Singleton expressed concern about deficits for all three months.  His worries were allayed when it was shown that monthly deficits would net out at the end of the fiscal year.  The reconciled bank statements were then unanimously received.

After failing to meet the 70% Instructional requirement last year,  staff met in regular session with the school’s Educational Advisory Committee on Sept. 13 and with the finance committee the following day, to review communication from the state Department of Education. The law requires boards to ensure that 70 percent of a school’s general fund expenditures are in the areas of instruction and school administration at the school building level; further, the school must perform at or above the state academic average.

Again Jim Singleton voiced a word of worry regarding the school’s inability to meet standards. The board received the committee’s communication unanimously while offering assurance that all steps are being taken to meet the 70% requirement.

Discussing federal allocations for the 2011-2012 year and the roll-over budget plan, the board unanimously received the federally amended allocations, provided that an increase in enrollment is permitted.

Following a meeting with the Educational Advisory Committee the staff also recommended and received unanimous approval of budget revisions of Singleton’s Pre-K program, LA-4.  It was unanimously approved.

Singleton’s asset collateralization reports and school contracts were then briefly outlined and unanimously approved. They remained nearly identical to last year’s. All other financial matters were deferred until next month’s meeting.

Principal Melrose Biagas provided academic updates, regarding the activation of five master teachers for the 2011-2012 years. Debate broke out as to the effectiveness of adding master teachers but was then suspended so Biagas could complete his update.  Singleton is one of four local schools to receive a federal grant under the Ensuring Literacy for All Initiative, which focuses on PreK-fourth-grade reading. The grant money does not flow directly to the school but provides technical assistance to implement specialized testing and develop curricula so that all students are reading by third grade. Further debate on the effectiveness of testing and augmented curricula was scheduled for the next board meeting.

The next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 18, at noon.

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