John McDonogh Senior High School’s board of directors on Tuesday morning approved an amended budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year — though the document was forwarded to state officials three weeks earlier.
The budget was supposed to have been sent to the state for approval last fall. Future Is Now: New Orleans, as the board is called, was granted an extension to file a new budget based on lowered enrollment, following an audit by the Louisiana Department of Education.
The board approved the budget after the national charter school organization’s chief operating officer, Chris Lozier, presented a financial update outlining revised revenue projections and expenses.
The amended budget reflected $959,000 less in key revenue projections than originally anticipated. It included a total of $976,000 in Title I and Title II funds, other federal grants and private donations. The original budget had anticipated a total of $1.9 million in such revenue.
Lozier told The Lens that he wasn’t sure why $6.3 million in revenue had been projected in the original budget.
“We don’t have a document that says what the assumptions were,” Lozier said. “We are now just concerned about moving forward.”
Lozier had previously pointed out that a high staff-to-student ratio played a large part in the problems with the original budget.
Lozier also said that Future Is Now: National had contributed an additional $400,000 to the revised budget of the local affiliate in order to eliminate the projected deficit.
Board members noted that the national charter organization had been very generous with funds and private donations, but that the financial model isn’t sustainable.
“We can’t raise a million and a half dollars every year to cover expenses,” said Steve Barr, the chairman and chief executive officer of the John McDonogh board.
He said the school was going to have to make some “tough decisions,” adding that he wished the board had more money.
Lozier said the charter board had done the Recovery School District “a favor” by taking over management of Walter L. Cohen High School and had endured a financial hit by doing so.
Lozier’s presentation clarified some of those costs.
“The impact of Cohen finances on overall organization may not have been fully understood,” the power-point presentation read. “With no operating cash provided by RSD [to-date], all deficit operations have been funded by McDonogh.”
According to the presentation, as of April 30 Cohen projects a deficit of $288,000 for October to June.
Documents show that the school ran a $216,000 deficit in three months under the Recovery School District. In October, Future Is Now: New Orleans agreed to take charge of the 109-student school.
Barr said the board’s decision on whether to keep running Cohen depends on the Recovery School District’s willingness to help with the deficit.
“That’s our red line in the sand,” Barr said.
Board members also agreed that John McDonogh would have to cut down on the number of teachers.
In the beginning of the year, the school had 30 classroom teachers for a projected enrollment of 480 students. The school cut back to 26 teachers during the year.
The 2013-14 block schedule will require a faculty of 22, including special education and elective teachers, based on a projected enrollment of 370 students, according to principal Marvin Thompson.
But some board members are still concerned that even the reduced enrollment figure may be hard to reach.
According to OneApp data given during the principal’s report, 240 students said they would be returning to John McDonogh after the first round of the enrollment process.
Even though the retention rate for students eligible to fill out a OneApp was at 93 percent for the first round, board member Vaughn Fauria expressed concern about the admissions process.
“What’s the reality of the per-student cost?” Fauria asked. “The shortage of our student population has to do with our budget.”
Data given during the principal’s report showed that a recruitment strategy had been put into place for the second round of the OneApp process. John McDonogh officials plan to visit McDonogh 42, McDonogh City Park Academy, Lafayette Academy, Harney Academy and Johnson Academy.
However, each school has on average only 15 to 25 students who have not turned in a OneApp, according to Harold Juluke, the school’s dean of students.
“Ultimately what has to happen is there has to be some accountability within the system to determine how many students there actually are to go to school,” Fauria said.
During the principal’s report, Thompson said that the students who had attended John Mac and Cohen were showing progress.
Of 101 seniors at John McDonogh, 76 were on schedule to graduate, and 15 students had been accepted by colleges.
At Cohen, 51 of 58 students were on schedule to graduate, according to a report by administrator Jennifer Grace.
Summer school will be offered for students who didn’t pass this year, as well as options for summer and winter graduations, Thompson said.
Board members John Hope and Charles Fenet were in attendance along with Barr and Fauria. The next meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. June 4, at the school.