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Capdau enrollment lower than expected

School officials at Pierre A. Capdau Charter School may have to make some “unfortunate” staffing cuts due to enrollment-related budget woes, principal Desmond Moore announced Thursday.

The news was made public at a board meeting for New Beginnings School Foundation, the charter organization that oversees Capdau and three other schools in the city.

“We are going to have to make some unfortunate shifts and changes in personnel,” Moore said. “We won’t work in deficit and so we have to make sure that we have everything we need.”

So far, Capdau’s enrollment has reached only 372 students – at least 24 fewer students than the school budgeted for in the 2013-14 year, according to school leaders.

The board’s director of financial services, Kendal Turner, put that number into perspective. More than 20 students brings in enough money for roughly two teaching positions and a member of support staff, she said.

However, Turner added that the school wouldn’t be making any cuts just yet, because the board wants to make sure that Oct. 1 student enrollment counts – the official first marker for schools – is taken before making adjustments.

“We don’t want to make cuts based on bad numbers,” Turner said.

 Moore said that some grants Capdau has received have  eased the sting of low enrollment, so the school doesn’t have to rely so heavily on per-pupil funding from the state.

“The money we’ve been awarded has taken some of the bleeding away from the budget,” Moore added.

The news stemmed from a larger discussion about the budgets for New Beginnings schools. Board member Carla Major asked to hear from all the principals about how the budget was affecting day-to-day operations at the schools.

“There’s this thing called the budget, and then there’s a thing called reality,” Major said. “There’s what kids come to school with and without. It’s a major factor, especially with the startup of school.”

Medard Nelson Principal Deidra Denis-Bradley mentioned that the school had to make staffing cuts from last year to this year because of a loss of funding.

“The most significant was with instructional support staff, which is very disheartening to me at a time when we are going through new curriculum and going through common core,” she said.

Denis-Bradley said that she had personally taken on more work since that happened.

During the meeting, Director of Development Lori Taylor addressed the issue of funding during a report that showed the foundation has been working to secure more grants for this school year.

Four grants have been secured already, the highest being one called High Risk Pool, which offers a total of $195,000. Another grant named Capital One Challenge will provide another $55,0000, she added.

In addition, she encouraged teachers to keep an eye out for any grants that the school may be able to use.

“We’re using the village to raise money for the needs of the students,” Taylor said.

Budget challenges aren’t the only problems New Beginnings schools have faced recently. Several of the schools have been suffering grade-wise in state evaluations – only Lake Area New Tech has a “C,” and the others have D’s or F’s.

“Our schools are still not performing where we want them to perform,” the foundation’s Chief Executive Officer Sametta Brown said. “Our report cards are not great.”

However, Brown added that she had hopes for future progress because of recent curriculum changes.

She said the school will “monitor our students every month and show you where we are.We will be able to show you that we are successfully educating the children in this network.”

The board didn’t vote on anything Thursday because it didn’t have a quorum.

At the meeting, board members noted that they would have to find new members to join as soon as possible. With the resignation of board members Tim Ryan, April Bedford and Carol Skriloff Starr, the organization fell below the state-required seven members last month.

During the meeting, board members asked for advice from Makiyah Moody, the Director of Governance Initiatives for the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools. The board had asked her to join the meeting in order to kickstart the process of finding new members.

“We want to have a very transparent process about how we add members to this board,” member Ramsey Green said.

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