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OPSB prioritizes Warren Easton repairs after board dips into reserves to pay for the work

A month after deciding to dip into school reserves to pay for needed construction, Warren Easton Charter Foundation board members on Wednesday learned that they may not have to use all of that money after all.

The Orleans Parish School Board has agreed to move forward with waterproofing and masonry repairs at the school possibly as soon as this summer, board president David Garland and school facilities consultant Ken Ducote said.

Garland said that despite his board’s concerns last month that Orleans Parish school officials were moving too slow to make the needed repairs, the district’s project managers have agreed to make the construction projects a more of a priority.

“This is an action that resulted from … us being proactive and going through the reasons we needed to move forward quickly,” Garland said.

In February, Warren Easton’s board voted to spend $300,000 of the school’s own money on building repairs, even though the Orleans Parish School Board offered to complete a renovation project outlined as part of the district’s master plan.

At the time, Garland said he didn’t feel comfortable waiting for OPSB contractors to fix the problem as it is already two years behind on other construction projects.

On Wednesday, Garland told the board that OPSB project managers said they were willing to advance the waterproofing and masonry work because they understood the importance of it.

“We’ve gotten not only their attention but action, all at one time,” he said. “We’re really, really pleased with that.”

The OPSB also increased the budget for Easton’s total “refurbishment” as part of the master plan project from about $2.8 million to about $3.8 million, Ducote said.

Garland said that OPSB’s dates for the project weren’t set in stone yet.

“They did not eliminate the possibility that we would go forward on our own if they ran into resistance at the OPSB,” Garland said. “But I would be very surprised if we ran into resistance.”

If the OPSB does take over waterproofing and masonry work soon, some of the money that the board had set aside for those renovations would be put back into the school’s $1.7 million reserve fund.

The school will still have to cover the rest of the repairs that were slated for this summer, including a security upgrade, a gym renovation and a new industrial-strength fence connecting the yard to the health clinic, Ducote said.

Ducote also said that installation for the new fence on the rear border campus is set for next week, and will run under $8,500.

During her report, Principal Alexina Medley said that the school has already received more than double the number of ninth-grade applicants than there are seats.

The school has so far received more than 500 applicants for 250 ninth grade spots – and those only include the number of applications the school received on time, Medley said.

She said that the students are chosen based on a lottery system. Factors like the family’s proximity to the school, or whether a student has siblings at the school, play no role in whether or not a student is accepted for ninth grade, she said.

In other news, the board approved a financial report showing the school expects its revenue to increase by $300,000. Board members said they haven’t decided yet how to spend the money.

Board member David Benelli announced that the Hall of Fame Committee has voted on six inductees for the school’s 2013 Hall of Fame.

The inductees include deceased Lt. Col. Ralph Thompson Brown from the class of 1932, Dr. Philip J. Daroca from the class of 1960, Lt. Col. Merrick Green from the class of 1993, Niquelle Lackings from the class of 1992, Frank Methe III from the class of 1947 and Col. George F. Smith from the class of 1959.

 “We are satisfied and proud of the diversity of the inductees,” Benelli said.

Marcel McGee, the school’s director of fund development, gave a presentation showing his work improving an alumni database. McGee said the new system will allow school staff and board members to better keep track of gift givers, alumni information and graduation dates.

Finally, board member Billy Hatchett announced plans for the school’s centennial celebration, slated for April 5.

The school is inviting all alumni, former faculty and friends for a ceremony.

In addition to Garland, Medley, Benelli, Hatchett and Ducote, the board’s vice president Robert Delle was in attendance, as well as board members Brenda Christiansen and John Broussard. Ex officio Sal Genovese was also in attendance, as well as Assistant Principal Joseph W. Gilyot III and Financial Officer Mike Greer.

The next board meeting is scheduled for April 17.

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