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Budget holds steady; study urged on reasons behind student arrivals and withdrawals

Directors of the Morris Jeff Community School gathered at 6 p.m. Dec. 15 for their monthly meeting. Belinda Cambre was absent.  Patricia Perkins, school principal, was in attendance as was an audience of four.

Board chair Aesha Rasheed began the meeting with discussion of the November financial report. Board member Melissa Jagers noted that the school is financially healthy, with net income hovering close to budgeted projections.

Prompted by a recent Lens story, the board is working to make the budget publicly available, as required by law. Compliance is expected by March or April, once the finance committee has reviewed an upcoming audit report and auditors have answered their questions. The auditors are scheduled to attend the January board meeting to formally present their findings.

The board disseminated the principal’s Dec. 15 report which includes details of the centralized application and enrollment system newly announced by the Recovery School District as well as recent teacher training, among other developments.

Board member Jennifer Weishaupt asked Patricia Perkins, the school principal, whether Morris Jeff conducts exit surveys of departing students. Perkins responded that the school always documents the primary reason why a student leaves, including where the student is headed. Perkins said most students who have left the school do so because their families are leaving the city. Weishaupt urged the board to analyze why students come to the school and why some leave it.

In other business, Rasheed reported that the fund development committee was in the process of drafting and sending out a holiday letter to the school’s donor base with a request for contributions.

The governance committee report focused on the logistics of the as yet unplanned board retreat, which Rasheed called an opportunity “look holistically, set goals, and make plans for the long-term.”

Member Joe Kimbrell provided an update for the facilities working group.  With the assistance of the Tulane City Center, the group is drafting a paper detailing considerations for Morris Jeff’s new building at the Fisk-Howard location. In the new year the group will present their ideas and engage stakeholders in discussions of ways the the new building can best serve the school.  Kimbrell noted that the RSD is “seriously considering” acquiring two rundown lots near the proposed relocation site. The school still does not know where it will be situated during the years before it secures a permanent campus.

During the public comment period, a distressed parent stated that her two children were struggling. She blamed the problem on lack of resources and poor behavior management and said the staff was stretched too thin to meet the needs of her children. Weishaupt urged the parent to file a formal complaint to the school .

The meeting adjourned at 7:17 p.m.  The next board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 19 at 6 p.m.

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