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Success Prep seeks solution to building issues

The Success Preparatory Academy Board of Directors approved its $5.1 million budget for 2013-14 with very little fanfare or controversy. There were no public comments, and just one teacher was in attendance at the Sept. 5 meeting.

The budget puts more money into teacher salaries compared to last year and includes 10 additional employees. This year’s budget calls for spending $1.8 million in teacher salaries, up from $1.5 million spent last year. Dan O’Connell, the schools’ finance director, said a notable change this year is that there are now 70 special education students enrolled out of a total of 450 students. He said 19 new special education students enrolled this year and the final enrollment count won’t be done until October. The final budget shows a $13,212 surplus.

“Everything looks strong,” board member and finance committee chair Ryan Bates said. The budget passed unanimously.

After passing the budget, board members spent considerable time discussing the future of the school building, and concentrated on possible improvements that can be done to alter the school’s unusual configuration and floor plan.

Classrooms are separated by partitions instead of walls. In the school’s five-year budget projection, O’Connell added a line item that budgets $75,000 over three years to make building improvements.

“This is essentially saying we need a solution, and it’s going to cost money,” O’Connell said. “We don’t have a solution. Space is still a major concern.”

New board member and architect Sean Préau added, “There’s a plan on how to maintain this building, but it doesn’t solve the inherent problems with the building.”

School Director Niloy Gangopadhyay and several board members will arrange a lunch with members of the Recovery School District to discuss the challenges associated with the school building. An update will be made at the next board meeting.

Members also discussed the possibly of moving into a new school building or even starting an additional school, as many other charter school management organizations in New Orleans have done. Success Prep will open its first 8th grade class next year, after expanding its class offerings one grade per year.

“We should think about the options,” said board member Avery Cornswet.

Board chairman Anderson Baker said he was not in favor of adding an additional school.

“I don’t have a great desire to take on another school,” he said. Gangopadhyay added, “It would be better for our ‘mom-and-pop’ (operation) to slam it out of the park,” rather than spread resources thin among more than one school, he said.

“Maybe spend money now renovating, so we can be comfortable having another grade,” Gangopadhyay said.

Regarding community outreach, board member Blake Pool said he would facilitate compiling data about where students live in order to develop community outreach with nearby businesses and residents.

In other business, the school’s updated security system is now in place. Elevated security systems were put in place following the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December. O’Connell will present the full details on how the new system will work at the board’s next meeting in October.

The board also unanimously nominated Monica Sylvain to be a member. Sylvain works with the Posse Foundation, which facilitates full scholarships for groups of high school students to allow them to attend an out-of-state college together as a support system. The Success Prep Academy board now has 11 members; its maximum is 15.

Board members congratulated themselves on the work that went into the 2013-14 budget and how far the board has come since the school was founded in 2009.

“I’m really proud of us; we’re talking like a board,” member Kathryn Broussard said. “We’re really doing the work a board is supposed to do. It’s taken other people a lot longer to get to where we are. “

The next board meeting is Oct. 3 at 6:30 p.m.

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