The board of directors for James M. Singleton Charter School changed the time of its monthly meeting by two hours Tuesday, but failed to notify the press as required by Louisiana’s Open Meetings Law.
Charter organizations are required to follow the law, which includes a provision that requires “mailing a copy of the notice to any member of the news media who requests notice of such meetings; any such member of the news media shall be given notice of all meetings in the same manner as is given to members of the public body.”
The YMCA-James M. Singleton Charter School Board of Directors is a public body under the law. The Lens had requested in September that reporters be emailed or otherwise notified in advance of any meetings or meeting changes.
While The Lens did receive notification of the original Oct. 15 meeting, in letter form, it didn’t get notice that the time of the meeting had changed. According to the organization’s Director of Administration Rhenette Tobias, members of the board had been notified Thursday that the meeting would be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, rather than noon.
“We called people about that one,” Tobias told The Lens Tuesday afternoon, referring to board members she contacted.
In a follow-up conversation, Tobias added that she had surveyed board members on Thursday about the potential change in time, and had called on Monday to confirm the meeting time, and also to see if there was going to be a quorum.
Several board members couldn’t make the noon meeting because of another conflict, Tobias said.
It wasn’t immediately clear how well members of the public had been notified of the change in meeting time.
When asked if the notice had been put on the website within 24 hours in advance of the meeting, Tobias said she didn’t know. She asked Director of Membership Jay H. Banks, who said that he didn’t know if the website had been changed at that time.
The Open Meetings Law also requires those organizations that have websites to post meeting times and agendas online.
Banks said the organization would be more transparent in the future when it came to notifying press and public.
“We will incorporate that better moving forward,” Banks added. “It was an oversight.”
While there was no information on the organization’s home page about Tuesday’s meeting, one events calendar did say by Tuesday afternoon that the meeting had been scheduled for 10 a.m.
Documents given out during the meeting indicate that Singleton Charter School fell 70 students below the projected enrollment for the 2013-14 school year, resulting in staff cutbacks.
“An adjustment in teaching staff was enforced on September 16, 2013 due to the 70 student decline in enrollment,” the Singleton update read, adding that eight instructional staff members were let go due to a “Reduction in Workforce.”
The Oct. 1 count was 570 students, including prekindergarten. The school expected 640 for all grades.
Financial documents handed out during the meeting also show revised 2013-14 budget projections. With 530 students in kindergarten or above, the school got about $4.33 million in per-pupil funds, versus the $4.9 the organization anticipated.
Total revenue decreased from about $6.34 million to about $5.62 million.
In balancing the budget, the amount allocated to instructional staff salaries was decreased from about $2.21 million to about $1.87 million. Some other miscellaneous services, including repair and maintenance, student transportation, telecommunication and custodial supplies were also cut to bring down total spending.