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Board members stress importance of being an open-admission school, offering pre-K

The board of Audubon Charter cleared up the logistics of the school’s admission process at its Nov. 19 board meeting.

The most important order of business at Audubon’s last F.A.M.E board meeting was clearing up the logistics of the school’s admissions process. Admittance to the school was once on a first-come, first-served basis until they began testing in the late nineties1990’s. Since the school became a charter after Katrina, it’s thrown out testing for all grades except third through eighth.

Teachers and parents wanted testing in the older grades to determine whether students need remedial help for any subjects. The test is just one part of the school’s admissions matrix.

Audubon considers prospective students’ grade point average, parental involvement in admissions events, the child’s behavior and other factors. In the meeting, board members were adamant about Audubon being a truly open-admissions school.

Vice Chairman Carlos Zervigon expressed concern about being compared to the selective processes of a few of New Orleans’ highest-ranking schools.

“As you can see, I’m sensitive to this subject” he said. “We do not only accept half of our students from the top scorers in our matrix and the other half from a lottery, much like Lusher does. And we don’t only take the top notch 20 percent of applicants who score in the 80th percentile like Benjamin Franklin High School.”

Here’s a quick example of how Audubon’s process works. If a prospective student’s matrix score is at only 50 percent in reading and math, but the parents spend time on campus and fill out required paperwork in a timely manner, the applicant meets the matrix threshold. The child is then placed into the lottery.

“We are an open-admissions school,” Zervigon said. “Show us you’re at the average and that you don’t need remediation so we know you can survive here. Everyone who qualifies for admission after the matrix evaluation goes into the lottery. Once students are accepted, they can stay. They don’t have to make retention. There is no GPA or percentage on test scores that determines if you can stay.”

But another thing Zervigon wanted to make clear is that as an applicant for the French program, “you are doomed to failure” if you don’t have grade level French proficiency.

French nationals – no matter if they live outside of New Orleans – get automatic admission unless there is no space.

The board also discussed funding for Audubon’s pre-kindergarten program.

The state does not pay for pre-kindergarten unless the students are at least 4, gifted/talented or special education. Priding themselves on being an open-admissions school, Audubon administrators say a gifted program benefits just a certain part of the population.

“For our students who qualify we get the full LA-4 amount of funding for Pre-K 3 and Pre-K 4 which is $4,500” said Alisa Dupre, Audubon’s operations manager. “But then, we only receive funding for eighteen students, even if we have more.”

Audubon covered the rest of the cost of a pre-kindergarten program for as long as it could. Board members said they struggled with their decision to require a fee. Their options were to either eliminate the program or use the system they currently follow.

To be accredited for French education – and to receive money from the French government, as the school does – the school must begin with prekindergarten.

The solution was to participate in a fee-based “third-party service” that uses an objective sliding scale based on income for prekindergarten parents. Board members hold firmly that no one is barred because of the ability to pay. The lottery is done before the financial evaluation. If a student makes the lottery and his or her parents can’t pay, they can still choose to come. Some parents choose not to enter their financial info. They just pay the full $4,500 fee and note on their paperwork that they most likely won’t qualify for a discounted fee.

“In the two years since we’ve added this financial evaluation to our process, we haven’t had many appeals” Dupre said.

Audubon does not handle any of the financial evaluation, so parents’ information is confidential. Fee determination is not based on credit worthiness.

Zervigon said the $4,500 is a fee, not tuition.

“You can’t call it tuition because, well, it’s not legal,” he said. “We’re not a private school.”

The F.A.M.E Board meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and adjourned at 11:57 a.m.

Board Members Present: Carlos Zervigon, Timothy Jackson, Yvonne (Teddi) Locke, Myriam Maxwell-McGee, Jacqueline Smith, Janice Duput, Alisa Dupre, Lynette Brice, and Ben Hicks.

Board members Derrick Bardell and Wynn Seamann arrived 5 minutes late at 10:15 a.m.

Board members absent were the Rev. Cornelius Tilton, Gloria Bingmon, Brandon Davis, Robert Sloan, Kemberly Washington, Dawn Collins, Elfie Cheynet, Sophia Griffies and Dennis Smith.

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