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SciHigh plans for 2013-14 amid $42,000 deficit

The New Orleans Charter Science & Mathematics High School presented its proposed budget for the 2014 fiscal year on May 16.

Student enrollment at the New Orleans Charter Science & Mathematics High School is expected to increased by 30 students, according to the budget presented to the Advocates for Science and Mathematics Education Inc. board.

But some staff positions are being cut, said Claire Jecklin, co-director of academics and school development.

The school is currently in a $42,000 deficit, Jecklin said. Claudia Kent, director of finance, attributed the shortfall to end of year spending on things like recruitment and graduation as well as lower than expected state revenues.

But the school just received an $8,000 reimbursement from the state for AP testing, and a $2,000 donation from the Ruth U. Fertel Foundation, which Jecklin says brings the school to roughly a $32,000 deficit.

Cuts to the state’s per pupil funding means SciHigh lost $62,676 it was expecting. Education officials blame the decrease on an unplanned influx of students in elementary and secondary schools.

Jecklin and Chana Benenson, co-director of school culture and student development, explained the budget to board members.

Positions on the chopping block include a math teacher, a science/math interventionist, a ninth-grade reading teacher, and a half-time grant writer position that is shared with the Foundation for Science and Mathematics Education, according to the director’s report.

A custodian position will also be reduced to half time. Other expenses that are not covered in the budget include an air condition compressor unit in the school’s auditorium that will remain inoperable. That means only half of the auditorium where physical education classes are held will have air condition, Benenson said.

The school hopes to receive more funding from the 21st Century and Striving Readers grants to be able to recover some of the losses and expenses.

The school is also waiting to find out if it will be reimbursed money from the state after financing for Governor Jindal’s voucher program was ruled unconstitutional by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

“It’s interesting building a budget right now, when there’s so much in flux,” said Jecklin.

The school will see an increase in revenue in 2014 of nearly $163,000. There will also be an increase in transportation costs by over $11,000, and an increase in nearly $76,000 in food service costs.

Jecklin said the school is switching from the Orleans district to private vendor, Sodexo, for food services because they weren’t happy with the portions provided through the district.

Board members also expressed their concern over the challenge to cover school employees’ retirement and health insurance expenses.

Board treasurer Jim Schneiders said the rising costs are threatening students.

“This is impacting all schools. All of the schools that have their teachers in that system are being impacted,” Schneiders said.

Eighteen percent of the budget covers retirement for the school’s employees.

School leaders proposed the budget with a caveat that the additional revenue that they hope to receive will go toward addressing the deficit.

The board approved the budget unanimously.

Jecklin and Benenson also presented the director’s report and said they were excited about the academic progress students made in the end of course exams for the year.

Students are at a 97 percent passing rate for 2013. It increased a little over 3 percent since 2012.

“We are really excited about the fact that we are getting to our 100 percent passing,” Jecklin said.

The Advocates for Science and Mathematics Education Inc. school board has a capacity of fifteen members. Ten people currently serve on the board, and board members said they will be seeking two new members.

The meeting was called into order at 4:34 p.m. and adjourned at 6:29 p.m. The board voted to go into an executive session to discuss personnel. They were in executive session for about 45 minutes during which the school’s fire alarm went off. Everyone evacuated the building and the board voted to adjourn.

Present were board members Nick Altiero, John Brown, Jennifer Fallon, Michelle Hayes, Deborah Love, Mary Zirvagon, Joe Cavarly, Holly Sharp, and Jim Schneiders.

Board members Sybil Morial and Bob Sternhell were not present. Sternhell has resigned from the board, and Holly Sharp, who previously served as treasurer, will be stepping down.

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