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Warren Easton to spend $300,000 in reserve money on building repairs

Warren Easton’s board of directors voted Wednesday to spend $300,000 of the school’s money on building repairs this year – rather than wait for the Orleans Parish School Board to finish the job.

The repairs include waterproofing and some masonry work that could be fixed by the OPSB during a renovation project outlined as part of the district’s master plan.

With the school district two years behind schedule on other construction projects, however, board president David Garland said that he didn’t feel comfortable waiting for their contractors to fix the problem.

“This can’t wait,” Garland said. “We need to do something now before we create a really serious problem with this building.”

The renovations, slated to begin by this summer, will come from a $1.7 million reserve fund that had been set into place several years ago specifically for the purposes of building repairs.

Garland said he had hoped that the money could be saved for a complete renovation of the building, but has since decided to fix costly water damage that has been plaguing the school all year.

“We’ve got the money, and we have this problem, but the money will solve the problem,” Garland added.

At the last board meeting, principal Alexina Medley pointed out that the school’s leaky foundation has caused damage to instruments in the band room, among other problems.

In addition to waterproofing the building, located at 3019 Canal St., the money will go to a security upgrade, a gym renovation and a new industrial-strength fence connecting the yard to the health clinic, Garland said.

According to Garland, waterproofing repairs will cost approximately $15,000, and masonry repairs will cost about $100,000.

A new fence will cost the school between $8,500 and $9,000, and upgrades in security cameras and computer equipment will cost about $60,000, Garland added. The rest of the $300,000 alloted for this year be used for gym repairs, including a new floor, new light fixtures, heating system repairs and contingency.

“This will be fixing it, not [putting on] Band-Aids,” Garland said.

Garland said the school normally spends about $200,000 on repairs every summer.

During his president’s report, Garland said that he’s “discouraged” that the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness still hasn’t finalized reimbursement of the school’s claims from Hurricane Katrina.

Aside from issues revolving around Warren Easton’s building repairs, a financial report showed that the school was in good standing with an ending cash balance of about $9.9 million combined in restricted and unrestricted funds.

Garland told board members they will be working on approving a “wish list” and budget for a $200,000 donation that will be coming to the school from Sandra Bullock.

The donation comes on the heels of Bullock’s People’s Choice Awards, with a $100,000 donation matched by Walgreens.

Garland said he hopes that the money will be used for new after school programs, scholarships and some building repairs, as well as to replenish money being lost as grants expire.

In his report, Garland also urged board members to participate in a continuing education webinar program hosted by the National Charter School Resource Center.

The organization recently offered an interactive webinar about board governance. Garland said there would be ample opportunity for board members to participate in other webinars slated for the next couple of months.

The board will also be responsible for approving Warren Easton’s Hall of Fame nominees on March 20th, Garland said, after Hall of Fame committee members vote on their selections during a meeting scheduled for March 12th.

“I think we’re trying to make the Hall of Fame an all encompassing endeavor for all of our alumni to feel they’re a part of,” Benelli said. “Ours is superior to any others. It’s about life achievement – not just because you hit a baseball or kick a football well.”

During the principal’s report, Medley mentioned that the school is focusing on testing and professional development for teachers.

A consultant hired by the school to help teachers boost student ACT scores recently asked faculty to take the portion of their ACT that they teach, vice president Robert Delle said.

“There was a lot of complaining at first,” quipped Delle. “But after the tests were scored, there was a lot of boasting about high scores.”

The principal’s report also focused on cultural philanthropy with a summary of a presentation given by grant writer developer Marcel McGee.

“We are really trying to treat every alum like Sandra Bullock,” McGee said. “Of those people who donated, who did you call and invite to a basketball game? We want our donors at these things.”

Besides Garland and Delle, other board members present included Billy Hatchett, David Napoleon, David Benelli, John Broussard, Charles Petrey and ex officio Sal Genovese. Also present were Medley, Chief Financial Officer Mike Greer, assistant principal Joseph Gilyot, grant writer Marcel McGee, coach Steve Costa and Ken Ducote.

Board member Brenda Christiansen was not in attendance.

The next board meeting is scheduled for March 20.

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