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Clark to create alternative school; others in network operating within budgets

FirstLine School board met Sept. 29 to make decisions and discuss new plans and concerns for its group of charter schools: Samuel J. Green Charter School, Arthur Ashe Charter School, John Dibert Community School, and Joseph S. Clark, which includes The NET Charter High. FirstLine also supports NOLA 180, the board of Langston Hughes Academy Charter School.

All members were present. Alison Hartman was voted  secretary, Dana Peterson was re-elected president, Stephen Rosenthal was elected treasurer, and Gregory St. Etienne was re-elected vice president.

Rosenthal provided a variance summary report, an operating budget document that provides explanations and details about projected and actual net expenses at each school.  All of the schools except Clark are operating within or below  budget projections. Surplus revenue will be re-directed to Clark to hire teachers for special-needs students.

In addition, Clark has launched a one-year initiative called, The Net. The program provides an alternative school experience for students in need. Those who have missed a lot of school, for example, can be put on a pupil progression plan that allows them to catch up with their credits and hours. The pilot program can accommodate up to 60 students.  The approximate cost is $200,000, which has been secured  from donated and surplus funds.

The board also discussed creating a new FirstLine network hub office. Brian Egana and Gregory St. Etienne were tasked with comparison shopping for a location convenient to to all FirstLine schools. The size of the facility was debated as were such issues a renting vs. purchase vs. new construction.

Towards the end of the meeting, Mark Martin, director and elementary school curriculum principal at Langston Hughes Academy, which FirstLine manages, spoke about the the school’s early days as a charter, a time when recruiting was done at Wal-mart, and space was shared with Thurgood Marshall and then Newcomb College before the move to Trafalgar Street.

Today’s Langston Hughes is 51 percent male, 48.5 percent female and 99.3 percent African-American. Eighth-graders have achieved the highest performance scores in the network.  The school has made improvements in teacher quality, school culture, community engagement,  organizational clarity and role definition.

Overall, the schools are doing well, board members were told.

Ashe must submit a new charter application to BESE (Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education) because their charter is expiring and academics and school culture are top priorities.

The meeting adjourned at 6:20 p.m. The next meeting is at 4 p.m. Oct. 25.

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