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Students polled on attitudes toward faculty and peers at The NET alternative high

Most students feel positive about their relationships and interactions with adult faculty at The NET, but don’t trust their peers or feel positive about peer relationships, according to a survey conducted recently at the alternative charter school.

In presenting results of the survey at the March meeting of The NET’s board — Educators for Quality Alternatives — Principal Elizabeth Ostberg said her staff is in a two year partnership with the Center for Restorative Approaches, which provides training in alternatives to suspensions and other traditional punishments.

She said Jenn Stanchfield, a consultant from Vermont, has been hired to facilitate trainings meant to build peer-to-peer trust.

The NET offers a flexible year-round program for at-risk students ages 16 to 21.

In other business, the board discussed finances and potential additions to the board.

Treasurer Will Kulick is stepping down, reducing the board to six members, Ostberg said, adding that she would like to add someone to the board with financial experience. Members Melissa Lessell and Christopher Kaul stressed the need for new members with fundraising prowess.

In a report on school finances, Ostberg noted that the school will receive $110,000 from the Orleans Parish School Board this year.

“Orleans Parish School Board has had a very large sum of money that really belongs to [Recovery School District] schools,” Ostberg said.  “They are in the process of transferring the money.  It looks like we’ll get about $110,000.  Every RSD School is getting some of that money. It will get realized this fiscal year, but I’m planning on spending it next fiscal year.”

The NET had $692,482 in total assets at the end of February and is projected to have a large cash surplus at the end of the fiscal year. Currently, the school has a net surplus of $359,969.

Ostberg set a schedule for creating next year’s budget. She has scheduled finance meetings every Tuesday morning at 7:30 for the next month in order to prepare a budget for public review prior to the budget hearing on May 20.

“The main thing I want to do is to make a multi-year budget since we’re in such a good cash position, but making a multi-year budget is incredibly complex,” Ostberg said. “We want to figure out how much of that extra revenue to spend.  It would be irresponsible to spend all of it, but it would also be irresponsible to save all of it because our kids need many things.”

Ostberg said the state requires budgets to be submitted by September, but she wants to submit the budget before the end of the fiscal year in June.

On March 6, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved an evaluative framework for alternative schools, Ostberg said. The At-Risk Alternative High School Performance Framework will yield an evaluative score in addition to the regular school performance score received annually by all Louisiana schools.

Alternative high schools consistently earn a school performance score of “F” because many students are years behind academically and face greater risks and obstacles than students at traditional high schools. The alternative framework will be used for The NET, Crescent Leadership Academy, ReNEW Accelerated, and Jefferson Chamber of Commerce in Jefferson Parish.

Four of six board members were present for the meeting: Anna Koehl, Melissa Lessell, Christopher Kaul, and Michelle Brown. Board chairwoman Kristina Kent was absent for the third consecutive meeting.

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