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Cutting non-instructional costs still a challenge; reading scores and enrollment rise

A looming deficit drew attention at the monthly meeting of the Dryades Y James M Singleton Charter School Board of

Directors, on Nov. 15, with 10 of 17 board members present.

A first-quarter report from Singleton’s finance committee shows $850,000 in current fiscal year spending and a deficit of $200,000. The state is expected to absorb much of the red ink, however, as the school is reimbursed with Miniumum Foundation Program funds for extra staff hired to serve an expanded enrollment.

“Agency deficit is due to monthly operating expenditures and anticipated funds agency is due to receive from the state prior to year end,” Catrina Reed, the school’s chief financial officer, said.

A Minimum Foundation Program increase, however, is contingent upon the school meeting the 70% instructional spending minimum, a topic of concern at prior board meetings. On this matter, CEO Douglas Evans, the school’s chief executive officer, distributed copies of exchanges between his office and the Department of Education, detailing an internal self-assessment
of expenditures in the non-instructional areas of food service, custodial/facility maintenance, management, transportation and
technology services.

The revised plan finds that food services, transportation, and technology cannot be stretched any thinner without undercutting student welfare. And Evans said he was unwilling to cut transportation for students within one mile of campus, though the school’s charter permits it. Instead, the projected 72.3% instructional expenditure for the 2010-2011 fiscal year will be pared by belt-tightening in management, custodial services and facility maintenance, a strategy that worked in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

As promised last month, Principal Melrose Biagas and four staff members presented academic updates. Biagas noted that
enrollment is up by 218 students from last year. Also on the rise, student reading scores and proficiency across all grade levels. The improvement follows implementation of DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills), a program acquired with the Ensuring Literacy for All grant awarded in August. Future academic updates are on the horizon, as second quarter tests in Language Arts and Math begin Dec. 12.

Evans closed out the meeting with good news: The Louisiana Collaborative Annual Community Campaign Charter—an effort to
raise money for Y’s throughout Louisiana—has been launched. But with added support comes a responsibility for the Dryades Y to engage and serve the community more effectively than ever, Evans said in an oblique reference to spiraling violence across the city.

“Support comes from home,” Evans said, “and as the year draws to an end, people get busier and busier with holidays. But
we must not forget that there is a contingent of people on these streets who are busy too, and the result is deadly.”

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