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Audubon leaders still worry Lusher will grab Allen building

Audubon Charter School officials on Saturday were still feeling the sting.

Two days earlier, an Orleans Parish School Board committee discussed whether to give the Henry W. Allen School building to Lusher Charter School.

It’s a facility Audubon officials say they’ve long had their eye on for their own campus.

Though Orleans Parish board members on Thursday decided to defer any decision on the issue until it can get clarity about who controls the facility, the chairman for Audubon’s board said Saturday that the school community will keep close tabs on the matter.

“Clearly some subterfuge was taking place,” said Cornelius Tilton said, chairman of Audubon’s board, called French and Montessori Education, Inc. “Everyone on that committee knew it.”

Tilton encouraged anyone concerned with the issue to attend Orleans Parish School Board’s 5 p.m. meeting today at McDonogh 35 High School, even though the Allen building is not on the agenda.

“If someone tries to move that to an agenda on Tuesday,” he told his board, “it will be very clear we’re not playing fair.”

Tilton and members of Audubon’s administration also held a meeting with Orleans Parish school board member Woody Koppel and district Deputy Superintendent Kathy Padian to discuss emergency repairs to two currently unused rooms at Audubon’s Carrollton campus. Principal Janice Dupuy said that Hurricane Isaac exacerbated some pre-existing structural damage, causing a hole in the roof that allowing rain to pour into the building.

Crescent Commercial Construction won the bid and the school is waiting to hear about a completion date. Dupuy said she hopes the repairs will be completed before students return from holiday vacation.

In finance news, Audubon will dispute at least one bill sent to the school from Orleans Parish School Board. Dupuy said the school board is attempting to charge Audubon for insurance and other expenses at the Broadway Campus, which Audubon hasn’t used since 2011.

It was also announced that Audubon’s school performance score of 125.3 qualified the campus for Top Gain status, which is granted to schools that reach their goals for improvement in test scores. The designation means the school will receive $8,500 from the Department of Education to be used for educational purposes.

Ben Hicks, a CPA with Silva, Gurtner & Abney, consults with the school on its financial matters. Hicks told the board that the school had moved forward investing $1.25 million between CDs with First NBC and a Blackrock account, as board members decided they wanted to do at Audubon’s October meeting. The money, which Hicks said amounts to the school’s rainy day fund, was moved from a cash account with a small return and can be used for any purpose the board decides.

The Audubon board’s vice chairperson Timothy Jackson stepped down and said goodbye at Saturday’s meeting. The process of nominating possible new members continues. “We have a couple of good prospects,” said Tilton, before the board agreed without a vote to extend the search for 45 more days.

In light of last week’s school shooting in Connecticut, the board discussed some security concerns. While Audubon’s main campus hosts security cameras, the Gentilly campus boasts nothing but a gate. No decisions were made on ways to boost security other than to meet with staff and reiterate the school’s emergency plans.

Besides Tilton, Jackson, Dupuy and Hicks, others present at the meeting were secretary Jolyn King, Shawn Barney, Yvonne Locke, Eva Alito and Greg Thompson, representative of the French consul general Philipe Aldon, Alisa Dupre and Lynette Brice.

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