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Future Is Now leader steps off New Orleans charter board amid John Mac budget worries

The former president and co-founder of the Future Is Now Schools charter organization has resigned from the board that oversees John McDonogh High School.

Gideon Stein stepped down Friday from the board of directors for Future Is Now: New Orleans. He’d served on the board since its inception in June 2011.

Stein’s resignation came a little more than a month after he also left his position as president of the national Future Is Now Schools organization based in Los Angeles. He still serves on that board, and says he left his top post in order to focus on a new business.

“I remain deeply committed to the mission of FINS:NOLA [Future Is Now: New Orleans] and wish everyone the best,” Stein wrote in an email to The Lens. “The students in the school deserve the best we all can offer.”

A little more than three weeks ago, Future is Now Schools’ chief operating officer warned New Orleans board members about John McDonogh’s finances. Chris Lozier wrote in an email that he was uncertain the school would be able to make payroll on April 30, without an additional injection of funds.

Lozier told The Lens Monday that the school did make its April 30 payroll after state dollars allocated to schools on a per pupil basis rolled in in enough time to cut paychecks.

But the school’s finances remain under scrutiny.

John McDonogh never actually sent its current fiscal 2013 budget to the state for approval last fall as law requires.

So, when the Future Is Now: New Orleans board meets Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the school, it is expected to vote on whether to approve a revised version of that spending plan.

School leaders say they structured the school’s original $6.3 million budget around 480 students, but only had 390 as of the state’s Oct. 1 student count.

A spokeswoman for Future Is Now on Monday sent The Lens a copy of the revised budget, about two weeks after it was first requested.

Based on 377 students, the new budget accounts for about $4.7 million in revenue — nearly $1.6 million less than was expected in the prior budget. The version of the budget shared with The Lens did not include any year-to-date figures.

Additionally, contributions and donations are totaled at $651,000 in the new budget. Comments written beside that figure seem to indicate $400,000 of that amount came to the school in “April 2013,” $50,000 came from private donations and $200,000 came from the Moriah Fund.

Lozier declined to explain the notation — or any of the new budget figures — until after Tuesday’s meeting. The budget format was not the same as another recent budget document shared with the board, so it was hard to draw comparisons between the old and new spending plans, particularly in the area of donations.

Stein said Monday that he serves on the board of Moriah Fund and he had requested the private Washington D.C.-based foundation contribute another $150,000 to Future Is Now: New Orleans to help John McDonogh.

“Our grant, if approved, will be for general support and the organization can use it how it sees fit,” Stein wrote in an email to The Lens.

Stein said that in December Moriah contributed $200,000 to the local Future Is Now organization in addition to $50,000 he helped raise for the same cause.

On its website, the Moriah Fund describes the foundation as being rooted in Jewish values with “a concern for the disadvantaged and an emphasis on self-help; a commitment to equity and justice; and a desire to improve the quality of life for Jews and non-Jews alike.”

Tuesday’s board meeting will take place at John McDonogh,  2426 Esplanade Ave.

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  • nickelndime

    Well then, let the Moriah Fund “fund” everything because this is clearly squandering public funds, and if this is what this private foundation does because Mr. Stein requests it, then “let ‘em have it.” That would stop all the questions about payrolls, misspending, lost budgets…And if a private foundation is paying for Mr. Barr, then who would care if administrative positions and costs are excessive. Just get the academic job done. That’s why the students are there!