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Sci High may revise budget higher

At The New Orleans Charter Science & Mathematics High School’s board meeting Thursday, members discussed an increased revised budget and promises of scholastic improvements.

Claudia Kent, director of finance, presented the budget as of Aug. 31. An increase of $308,000 in Minimum Foundation Program funding will bring it to a total of $3,575,200. The revised budget is based on a 400-student enrollment, compared with 368 students from last year. There are 393 students enrolled at Sci High now.

The school is still trying to reach a total enrollment of 410 or more, said co-principal Chana Benenson. The school will continue to recruit students even after the Oct. 1 deadline for reporting student enrollment numbers to the state.

Sci High will continue operating under the budget based off of 368 students until the increased funding begins, Benenson said, so falling short of these enrollment goals would not hinder the school.

The budget sheet included with Kent’s financial report showed a $5,240 surplus in funds, up from a $42,000 deficit four months ago.

Additionally, the school’s after-school budget will increase because of a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant award to the Orleans Parish School Board. A Keep Louisiana Beautiful grant will help fund dishwashers, lunch trays and a recycling program.

There will be a new revised budget presented at the October board meeting.

The two co-principals, Benenson and Claire Jecklin, reported that 77 percent of this year’s 393 students qualify for free and reduced lunch.

The bulk of their report allowed for academic department leaders to present their expectations for standardized testing in the ACT, Advanced Placement and  end-of-course exams.

Board member Nicholas Altiero questioned why some scores, such as those from last year’s AP Statistics exam, were “ridiculously low” while their targets are “incredibly lofty.”

DJ Johnson, science and math instructional leader, spoke for many of the other academic leaders when he said not all goals for the coming year are improvements over last year, but they are all realistic.

For example, the percentage of students showing college readiness in AP Biology is expected to decrease due to changes in the test’s difficulty.

“They were basically giving away college-ready scores like candy,” Johnson said.

“College ready” is defined as scoring a 2 or higher on the AP test, while passing is defined as a 3 or higher because that can potentially earn students college credit. For the End-of-Course exams, the top 50 percent of scores are considered proficient, whereas passing simply demonstrates a basic knowledge of the material. Jecklin noted that students could potentially pass this exam while not showing proficiency.

For the ACT and its Explore and Plan tests, college readiness varies for the different subjects. College ready for the ACT is a 22 for math, 23 for science, 18 for English and 22 for reading. All of the End-of-Course subjects have 100 percent passing targets because these students must pass these exams to graduate.

Ali Gaffey, the literacy leader, reported that Measures of Academic Progress assessments show 9th graders are reading on an average 9.8 grade level, 10th graders are on a 10th grade level, 11th graders are on a 10th grade level and 12th graders are on an 11th grade level. The strength of the 10th grade class is one reason why some of the academic leaders expect drastic increases in some test scores, such as in English III, and decreases in other areas.

In discussing new business, board chair Mary Zervigon said the possibility of sharing space with the YMCA in the BioDistrict likely will not happen due to location issues.

The next board meeting is at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 17.

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