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Look to Central City area for additional enrollment, board member advises

The board of Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy Charter School held their second monthly meeting of the academic year on Oct. 3 at 6:05 pm.

Five board members were in attendance as the meeting began: Arthur Williams Jr., Ashton Ryan Jr., Dr. Charles Southall III, Clinton Smith, Jr. and Jesse Hills Jr.; Norma Dixon Monroe arrived ten minutes late for the 15-minute meeting. Eileen Williams, the school principal, sat with the board.

The meeting focused on student achievement and strategies to increase enrollment. Board finance consultant Sean Berner said that as of the Oct. 1 deadline for reporting data to the state, the school enrollment – 366 students — was the same as last year.

Berner cautioned that the New Orleans market for charter schools may become saturated and stressed the
importance of maintaining Harney’s service, quality and appeal to students.  With so many options of places to enroll and “a lot of new schools coming online with big shiny buildings,” Berner said, “schools have to operate as businesses with kids as the market.” Harney currently buses in students from across the city; when new schools open up closer to students’ homes, enrollment numbers at Harney could suffer, Berner said.

Board member Ryan inquired about enrollment from within the school’s Central City neighborhood where recruitment should be easiest. Berner said he would provide this data at the next board meeting.

Harney needs what Berner called a “real strong plan to retain our students and keep Harney at the forefront of the charter student market share.”

Ryan suggested getting the New Orleans Hornets involved to help market the school.

Principal Williams said that faculty and administration will discuss how to campaign for greater neighborhood enrollment.

Of the school’s 366 students, 71 are new this school year. The school has lost eight students since Aug. 12. Two transferred to in-district schools, which means that the rest moved out of state or out of district.

Harney Chief Financial Officer Marlene Wade presented a quick update. Harney is still waiting for reimbursements from their grants through Sept. 30, and over $57,000 of Title 1 funds are still due to the school. The first quarter reports with budget data through the fiscal year Sept. 30 will be ready next month, Wade said.

Principal Williams followed the CFO report with news from Harney’s campus. The first quarter of classes ends Oct. 14, and there is a professional development day on Oct. 21 — a time for teacher collaboration in the morning and parent conferences in the afternoon.

To assist struggling students, Williams said the Harney is considering a proposal for after-school I-Leap tutorials in November. The school plans to use various indicators – including Diboll scores – to identify 10 to 12 students to target for these academic interventions. Teachers from the third, fourth and fifth grade have already started tutorials.

Another way Harney is supporting students is through after-school homework clubs, sponsored by teachers not involved in athletic or activity clubs, Williams said.

She described the effort to boost academic performance – from tutorials to Target Teach programs – as an “evolving process.”  It is the “legwork and commitment of staff that are moving the children forward,” she said.

Harney will continue to push what is expected of students by offering support and a rigorous curriculum, she said.

There is “nothing wrong with stretching what you expect from students,” Ryan said. “We are amazed at
what kids can do when we give them the chance.”

The board also voted and passed a proposal to move the November board meeting from the first to the second Monday, Nov. 14, at 6 p.m.

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