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Success Prep leaders cheer good news on charter extension

Success Preparatory Academy saw its charter recommended for a five-year renewal on Wednesday. The Treme-based K-8 school was one of 25 charter schools recommended for renewal by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, according to state documents.

The renewal follows the Recovery School District-run institution’s rise from a “F” to “C” school in terms of School Performance Scores (SPS) between 2012 and 2013.

School leaders have noted that Success Prep’s rise from 35th out of 42 schools to ninth is the second highest jump in the RSD.

A nola.com report points out that the school was among 13 New Orleans schools with renewed charters that rose out of a failing score since 2012. No schools in New Orleans and Baton Rouge had their charters revoked this year, the report notes.

Charter schools are eligible for renewal from the state after four years.

“Earning a five-year charter renewal in this competitive landscape is a testament to the hard work that our staff and board who have been a part of SPA for the past four school years have put in. It also recognizes the efforts that our students and families have put in during this time,” school director Niloy Gangopadhyay said in a statement Wednesday. “Now it is our turn in our fifth year to continue to push academic excellence and churn out strong results despite many challenges in our way.”

Success leaders discussed some of those challenges at the school’s December board meeting, held the night before BESE’s meeting, though they noted improvements in two areas.

After expressing concern about the number of absences logged by teachers over the first portion of the 2013-14 school year, Gangopadhyay said further analysis now leaves him less concerned about the issue.

The school director said that after he ran the numbers, staff absences were up two percent last month as compared with the same time in 2012.

Gangopadhyay also said he addressed the issue with four teachers that he was particularly concerned about, and teachers who took extended medical leave absences have since returned to the job.

Further, he said he talked with other school leaders in the city who told him Success Prep actually had lower absences than their school.

“We’ve just gotten extremely lucky…The law of averages finally caught up with us,” Gangopadhyay said.

According to data that was updated in November, the school currently has 21 more students than budgeted for, putting current enrollment at 468. Finance Director Dan O’Connell said the school has picked up 10-12 students since the district’s official census in October, but didn’t want to budget for the added students until the year’s second district-wide enrollment census is completed later in the school year.

“It is possible that we’re going to have more revenue coming in,” O’Connell said.

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