The governing board at Ben Franklin High School, Advocates for Academic Excellence in Education, received a positive audit report, and grappled with lingering transportation issues at their Nov. 15 meeting.
Representatives from the Bourgeois Bennett accounting firm, who conducted an independent audit of the school’s finances, reported a “clean” result. This designation was defined as meaning, “financial statements were fairly presented, with no material errors.” The board thanked school finance director Allison Bent for managing a successful audit with no findings.
In a move that board president Duris Holmes described as “magnanimous,” it was announced that school principal Dr. Timothy Rusnak, was donating his recently received salary increase back to the school. The one-time, six percent raise was given to Rusnak last month.
The board discussed the ongoing transportation debate about how best to accommodate students living in eastern New Orleans. A group of students, parents and activists and complained of indirect and inconveniently timed Regional Transit Authority (RTA) bus routes to the school. They have been represented by VAYLA (Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association).
Board member Susan Weeks expressed frustration about VAYLA members taking their transportation concerns to other meetings and media outlets around town. “We’ve made the accommodation on (RTA) tokens that was requested, but we can’t afford to supply school buses. It’s very unsettling to see these narratives in the newspaper that we’re not talking to each other apparently,” Weeks said.
The board promised VAYLA it would reach out to RTA in hopes of making route and or schedule modifications between the two neighborhoods. Board member Gary Ostoske, who was not present, is in charge of communication with the RTA. Holmes said no meaningful results had been produced.
“The RTA gives Gary a lot of names and he follows up. They give him different names, and he follows up. Nothing changes,” Holmes explained.
Holmes also pointed to the board’s effort to create an ad hoc transportation committee, but was disappointed with the level of participation on both sides.
“We tried to get VAYLA parents on the committee without success, and no one has stepped up to chair the committee. It’s not fair to go the media, when we told them we’d go to RTA – which we’ve done. RTA hasn’t done anything about it. The idea of the committee is to work with them on other options,” Holmes said.
Weeks said part of the problem seems to be a communication issue, and agreed to chair the committee.
Three new board members received classifications determining their length of tenure, and a motion was made and passed, approving the terms. Les Alexander and Joe Horton were assigned to the one-year group, and John Williams was put into the three-year bracket.
Holmes also informed the board that new member Kim Bondy has resigned, due to work that will take her out of town for the coming months.
Other board members present included Carl Indest, Collette Creppell, and Ingrid Labatt.
The November meeting ran from 4:10 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.