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Sag in enrollment and attendance rates imperils finances as school moves toward closure

Declining enrollment and attendance rates at Sojourner Truth caught the attention of the school’s directors at their monthly meeting, Jan. 17.

Sojourner Truth’s enrollment has decreased from 272 at the start of the year to 230.  But only 168 students were in attendance during the most recent weekly count. Board members urged that attendance counts occur daily rather than weekly in the future.

The Feb. 1 attendance figure is a factor in school funding, Board chairman Bob Burvant said, which makes this a “front-burner issue.” Without a surge in attendance, the school could face financial problems down the line. Burvant urged incentivizing attendance on Feb. 1, perhaps with a pizza party or a dress-down day. An administrator said the school would pursue these suggestions and try to get in contact with the parents of absent students.

With the school scheduled to close at the end of the academic year, it has had to find new partners for banking and busing since former partners did not feel comfortable extending the school’s line of credit.  Board member Keith Crawford said the problem was under control.

Touching on academics, the board discussed the generally positive results of an Algebra I end-of-course test. Only two of 60 students who took the test fell into the “need improvement” category.

The school plans multiple events in the near future to assist students with transitioning to new schools. On Feb. 7 and 14 students will have half days in order to attend school fairs in the afternoon. March 6 will be a “technical assistance day” for students who want help filling out applications. Parents will be contacted by phone and mail to make them aware of the events and will be given information packets on school options ahead of time.  Applications are due March 30.

In the meantime the school will have to find an alternative to computer-based testing, because the school knows the whereabouts of only 18 of its 62 laptop computers. Board member  Charline Wright called the situation a “grand failure” and demanded that the board receive an explanation.  Board member David Perlis called the development “frightening.”

The public part of the half-hour meeting was adjourned at 6:36 when the board went into executive session. Burvant did not provide a reason for the secret session.

In addition to Burvant, Crawford, Perlis and Wright, members present included  Lawliss Turner, Alice Parkerson, Sybil Favrot and Ryan Mast.  Principal Reginald Flenory and board members Elizabeth Rhodes, Annie Balart Michaels and Victoria Johnson were not present.  Four members of the public were in attendance.

Auditors will provide a draft financial report at the board’s next meeting, at a date yet to be determined.

 

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