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Warren Easton taps new board member; building repairs to proceed over summer

At their monthly meeting Wednesday night, Warren Easton Charter High School’s board of directors voted unanimously to seat a new member.

The new member is Timolynn Sams, executive director of the New Orleans Neighborhoods Partnership Network, a nonprofit organization focused on community revitalization and civic processes. She is a Warren Easton alumna.

Sams worked with several board members on the school’s 100th anniversary Centennial Celebration and said she has big plans for the board and for the school’s students now that she’s a board member.

“What I hope to bring to the board is a connectedness or a glue, to really start to embed this school into this particular community,” Sams said in her pitch to the board’s members.

In addition to helping the board find additional scholarships for Warren Easton students, Sams said she hopes to get the kids involved with new community projects in Mid-City.

Among examples of such projects, she mentioned the Lafitte Greenway that will link Treme, Mid City and Lakeview with public land and recreational space, and new hospitals and health centers slated to open in the neighborhood.

The University Medical Center is under construction as a post-Katrina replacement of Charity Hospital and is due to open in 2015. It stands adjacent to  the $1 billion Veteran Affairs hospital complex between Tulane Avenue and Canal Street, which is slated for completion in February 2016.

Sams also said she hopes Warren Easton students will be interested in helping other students around the city grow through the Save Our Sons mentoring program.

“Easton is really a model that could reflect what it means for inner city kids that come to the school not just to be educated, but to be holistic citizens,” Sams added. “To also give back, and I think I’m an example of that.”

Board members expressed delight in Sams’ election.

“Her skill set is without parallel as far as this board is concerned,” David Garland, the board president, said.

In other developments, after their most recent meeting with the Orleans Parish School Board, Easton’s directors have decided to move forward over the summer recess with $300,000 in building repairs.

In February, the board voted to spend money from a $1.7 million reserve fund on much-needed waterproofing, masonry and other renovations, even though the OPSB had offered to complete the renovations as part of the district’s master plan.

At the time, Garland said he didn’t feel comfortable waiting for the OPSB to finish the job, since the district was already years behind on other projects.

In March, the OPSB said they were going to prioritize the school’s repairs, and try to move forward as early as this summer.

In an April meeting, however, the OPSB said that “construction documents are delayed to evaluate structural issues and construction is to start fall 2013,” according to board consultant Ken Ducote.

In light of the delays, Garland decided to move ahead with the original plan, fronting the cost and then seeking reimbursement from the OPSB after the work is done.

A financial committee report showed that revenue from per-student allocations will decrease from about $300,000 to about $200,000 as a result of state funding cuts.

Some of the city’s schools will be getting $181 less per pupil than originally budgeted.

Nonetheless, March financials show a net income of $109,000 for the month.

Financial officer Mike Greer presented the board with a 2013-14 projected budget and said a final version will be in hand prior to the June board meeting.

Projected expenditures for the coming year stand at about $8.4 million, some $200,000 less than last year’s projected budget.

The principal’s report showed an increase in disciplinary actions.

Warren Easton issued 36 out-of-school suspensions in the third quarter, versus 15 in the second quarter and 10 in the first quarter.

Saturday detentions increased from 70 to 80 between the second and third quarters. The first quarter saw only 41.

“Spring is in the air,” principal Alexina Medley said about the increase, “and seniors are being seniors.”

Regarding the school’s seniors, Garland said he was excited to learn that U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu would be the school’s keynote speaker.

“We’re really, really pleased with that,” Garland said.

In addition to Garland, Sams, Greer, Medley and Ducote, board members David Benelli, Billy Hatchett, Brenda Christiansen and Charles Petrey were in attendance. Ex-officio members Arthur Hardy and Sal Genovese were also present, as well as development director Marcel McGee.

The next board meeting is scheduled for May 15.

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