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Two students expelled from Success Prep for smoking marijuana

Two Success Preparatory Academy students were expelled for using drugs on campus in December, officials said at the charter school’s board meeting Thursday.

The two students, who are in seventh grade, used marijuana on the school’s campus on Dec. 13, school leader Niloy Gangopadhyay said.

In accordance with Recovery School District procedures, the students were referred by Success Prep administration to the district, which formally expelled them. The students will be enrolled in an alternative school, he said.

Success Prep officials met with the students’ parents, but police were not involved, Gangopadhyay said.

Board members asked Gangopadhyay if school administrators investigated whether the drug use went beyond the two students, and if the administration must improve supervision to prevent other problems.

Gangopadhyay said administrators concluded that the incident was isolated to the two students. While lamenting the loss of two students who “obviously love the school,” he said he believes the punishment sends a “strong message” to the other students.

He added that the supervision is adequate in Success Prep’s middle school because of the number of staff and teachers. The school’s tight quarters — it uses partitions to separate classrooms — also makes it difficult to hide anything, Gangopadhyay said.

“This building, you couldn’t do much without someone being on top of it,” he said.

After board members asked more questions about supervision, board Vice Chair Lee Adler asked, “In other words, you could smell it?” Gangopadhyay nodded in response.

Discussion then turned to the school’s performance. After getting its charter renewed for five years and posting big gains in test scores, Gangopadhyay said he’s focused on continued improvement.

The school rose from an F in 2011-12 to a C in 2012-13. Relative to other RSD schools, the school went from being ranked 35th out of 42 schools to ninth. Gangopadhyay said he believes the school is in a position to make further gains, but he has to keep motivating the staff.

“It’s been hard to create a sense of urgency school-wide, especially around academics,” Gangopadhyay said.

He said the changing nature of the school’s organization — which went from two school leaders to one over the summer, among other leadership changes — and introduction of Common Core standards proved to be the primary barrier.

Gangopadhyay and Director of Finance and Operations Daniel O’Connell said the staff successfully adapted to the organizational changes by October, but the effects of Common Core weren’t likely to be known until the next round of performance scores.

“The next six months are big,” Gangopadhyay said.

The school has also introduced sports, music and other extracurricular activities, which the administrators said are having a positive effect.

Gangopadhyay added that the school has received a $15,000 blended learning grant from Leslie Jacobs, a local philanthropist who represents a consortium of funders. The approach combines online instruction and traditional teaching.

In other updates, facilities committee chairman Shawn Preau said his group is updating the school’s master plan, which will involve a minor reconfiguration to the building. The proposal is expected to be presented at the board’s February meeting.

Some current building repairs have been delayed, O’Connell said. Crews were expected to complete door and window replacements over the holiday break, but the new ones didn’t arrive on time, O’Connell said.

The work has not been rescheduled. Since the work would intrude on teaching, officials are planning to complete it after school hours or during the week of Mardi Gras, O’Connell said.

The repairs, which are overseen by the Recovery School District, are being funded by a recovery grant from FEMA.

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