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Tubman charter to get a band program, thanks to unexpected influx of funds

An unexpected $686,000 boon for Harriet Tubman Charter School means Tubman scholars will soon have a new band program, school officials said.

Algiers Charter School Association officials gave the money to Tubman. Adrian Morgan, chief executive officer for the association, said his organization discovered a fund balance for Tubman during its annual financial audit.

ACSA ran Tubman, along with its eight other schools, until the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education pulled the association’s charter in January 2011, citing low academic performance. Crescent City Schools took over Tubman in July of that year.

Members of Crescent City Schools’ board discussed the unplanned surplus, OneApp enrollment, and facilities updates at their March board meeting.

ACSA’s audit for the 2011-2012 fiscal year was released on Feb. 6. It mentions the fund balance transfer to Tubman. Although the audit says Tubman was due to receive $679,491, the actual amount came in at $686,293, Morgan said, after a further look at the books.

Because all Recovery School District charter schools are considered their own local educational agencies, when those charters switch operators, the cash should follow the school. ACSA gave Crescent City the Tubman money a year after Crescent City took over, but Morgan said that expenses don’t always align perfectly with the fiscal year. Also, the timing allowed for an independent auditor to verify the transfer amount.

“The money was the result of an accumulated operating surplus and always will be classified as ‘Harriet Tubman money’,” he said in a statement. “A change in charter operator has no impact on this status.”

Crescent City CEO Kate Mehok called the transfer a “new era of cooperation for schools on the West Bank.” Tubman principal Julie Lause said she doesn’t know how the school will spend all of the money – they might advance academic programs, or hire new staff. But they will be using it on a band, something Tubman parents have long asked for.

“I kept saying academics is the priority, and when we can get the money for that we will,” she said. “And then they asked [again], ‘Why don’t we have a band?’ So I can tell you….we will have a band next year.” Tubman will start with a drumline, she said, and build from that in later years.

OneApp

The conversation soon turned to OneApp enrollment numbers. The main round of applications closed on Friday, March 15. During the enrollment process, families rank school choices, from one to eight, on a single application, and the Recovery School District matches students to their choice schools, as available space permits.

Mehok said that 98 percent of all students who ranked Tubman on their applications ranked it as their first choice – this percentage is called a “completion rate.” About 86 percent of all students who ranked Akili Academy on their applications ranked it as their first choice, and 39 percent of students did so at Paul Habans Elementary, the direct-run school that Crescent City will operate next year.

Tubman’s completion rate was one of the highest in the city, at least at the time Mehok received the information from the RSD, she said.

Mehok said she’s not surprised by the Habans percentage, considering that Crescent City will be taking over the school next year.

“For us, we know a bunch of kids will be assigned to Habans who maybe didn’t pick it as number one, or maybe didn’t pick it at all,” she said. To combat that, school leaders are increasing their recruitment efforts.

On average, first-time applicants to Akili, Tubman, and Habans ranked those schools as their third choice.

Facilities

Chief Operating Officer Chris Hines and Lause plan to tour the O. Perry Walker College and Career Preparatory High School building, Mehok said. Tubman is slated for major renovations, and while the building is being renovated, Tubman’s students will inhabit the Walker building. Walker will be unoccupied next year due to the planned Walker-L.B. Landry High School merger. Classes at Walker will start in January 2014.

The renovations to Akili Academy’s new home, the William Frantz Elementary School on North Galvez Street, are scheduled for completion by July 2013.

Board members Coleman Ridley, Doug Harrell, Anna Burrell, Tim Bryant, JP Hymel, Julius Kimbrough, Jr., and Bob Stefani were present, in addition to Lause, Mehok, Chief Operating Officer Chris Hines, and Development Director Alison Mehr. Former City Councilwoman Peggy Wilson was also present, as well as a Lens reporter.

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  • This is good news for Tubman’s aspiring band members, but it is also further evidence of the fiscal disarray which apparently characterizes the charter school movement in New Orleans. How do you suddenly discover more than $600,000.00 which has been accumulating without anyone noticing it? At least it’s money found and not money stolen or missing, for a change.

  • nickelndime

    Well, that is correct – financial accountability is not what it should be in these charter schools. Actually, I am surprised that ACSA didn’t confiscate it. And my question is why, when there are CFOs and Business Managers, does it take an AUDIT to find money which has been lost, found, embezzled…? And Tubman had better use that money quickly or Crescent City will eat it up. Another thing: Thank gawd for THE LENS, and great to see that Peggy Wilson was in attendance. However, these nonprofit charter boards are not being watched enough.