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Plessy school facing fundraising shortfall

Board members of Citizens’ Committee for Education – the governing body of Homer A. Plessy Community School – were alerted Monday night to the need for nearly $150,000 in fundraising help for the school.

This is an increase from the $135,000 identified last month, and the school needs to find those funds for its cash-flow requirements projected from December through the end of the school year.

According to Melissa Fox of 4th Sector Solutions Inc., an outside firm that provides business and financial services to the school, the increase is mostly due to a $10,000 custodial and maintenance bill from Arise Academy, the school with which Plessy shares a building.

Ongoing budget issues include outstanding pre-K tuition invoices that have not yet been collected, as well as school lunch fees that also haven’t been collected. The school’s three-month forecast shows a $95,644 budget deficit, Fox said.

She said the school needs $148,000 to get sufficient cash flow.

After the meeting, Fox said the school has applied for various grants which, if approved, can help cover the fundraising goal.

Board members are passing around a letter calling for fundraising help to friends and community members hoping to get additional cash flow quickly. Members were each asked to pass the letter to 10 people.

The money is needed, “especially towards funding pre-K; that’s our big deficit,” said board president Ben McLeish, who is on the fundraising committee.

Board members also were told that restaurants in the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods may also hold “Plessy Night” fundraiser dinners with a portion of the proceeds going to helping the school, which is in its first year of operation.

In other business, board members heard frustrations with the OneApp school-application process. OneApp is the application parents use to enroll their children in many area charter schools through the Recovery School District. More students for a school means more state money.

Head of School Sara Leikin* said a recent OneApp “kickoff” on Saturday had poor attendance and that the OneApp application packet did not list Plessy’s tuition-based pre-K program, just the free enrollment for qualifying pre-K students.

“(RSD) said in the application there would be a box to check if you were paying (for pre-K) or qualifying for free/reduced lunch. That did not happen in this printing. (RSD) acknowledged (the mistake), and said they’ll put a separate listing for us in the next round of printing,” Leikin said.

On the student front, Leikin said the school welcomed two new paraprofessionals to help with the kindergarten students, paid for with Title I funds through the Orleans Parish School Board. Student intervention will be done in tiers to target students who need various levels of extra help.

In other board business, facilities committee member Randy Hutchison** reported the school is still looking for new space. The school currently shares space with Arise Academy on St. Claude Avenue. Hutchison said that arrangement is not permanent, and members have most recently toured the former St. Rose of Lima church and school on Bayou Road.

“It’s a good (space), it’s in the Seventh Ward where the original citizens’ committee is from,” Hutchison said. “Plessy (himself) was from there.”

No decisions were made on the space during the meeting.

“We need to find a permanent home,” Hutchison said after the meeting. “This (arrangement with Arise) isn’t available to us indefinitely.”

In other business, the community engagement committee announced the school will have a presence at community festivals including the Mirliton Festival on Nov. 9 and the Fringe Festival on Nov. 23.

Board members were also told about two prospective board members: April Bradford and Gilda Butler, who is a current volunteer and grandmother of students who attend the school.

Board meetings are held on the first Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at the school, 3820 St. Claude Ave. The next meeting is set for Dec. 2.

*Correction: The title and first name of Head of School Sara Leikin was originally left off this story and her last name was misspelled. (Note: Leikin has since resigned her position.) (Nov. 11, 2013)

**Randy Hutchison’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story. (Nov. 14, 2013)

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  • nickelndime

    The Plessy nonprofit charter board (Citizens’ Committee for Education) admits more pre-K students than it can actually afford AND there is an outside business contracted to compile and submit the data for reimbursement for free and reduced lunch students. Why doesn’t the board get Michael Pizzolatto and Deputy Superintendent Kathleen Padian to put up some their own money!?? This is a financial accident in the making, and the OPSB can thank itself for yet another “new” bad charter decision.