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Waivers bring $90,000 windfall; reading scores soar; board mulls ways to complete fund drive

Correction: Errors in an earlier version of this article have been removed. St. Claire Aadrian is now correctly described as upper school principal. The comment about “bang for the buck” is now correctly attributed to Anderson Baker.

The Success Preparatory Academy Board of Directors are mulling over new ways to help the school raise $38,000 and complete the school’s $60,000 fundraising goal by the end of the school year.

At the board’s Jan. 5 monthly meeting, with seven of 10 members present, principal Niloy Gangopadhyay suggested the board throw a spring gala to raise money, but board members expressed reservations, saying there should be more time to plan and that a creative twist would be needed to generate interest.

“I’m not really sure how much bang for the buck we could get, even if we did it right,” board member Anderson Baker said.

Another option that came up in the discussion: a night at the New Orleans Fairgrounds. Members said they will come back next month with ideas.

Board members also discussed how to collect the rest of the school’s classroom sponsorships, another source of revenue. Seven of the school’s 17 sponsored classrooms haven’t been paid in full, Gangopadhyay said. Colleges and university alumni clubs were recruited to sponsor a classroom for $1,000, and many gave an initial donation of $500 but haven’t paid the rest.

Board members Ben Blanchard and Jack Carey agreed to call clubs that still owe money.

On the student achievement front, upper school principal St. Claire Adriaan said reading levels skyrocketed during the first semester.

“We have some kids that went up seven levels; that’s two grades plus a little bit,” he said.

Gangopadhyay said the school is focusing on guided reading with a goal of 10-12 hours of such instruction each week.

“It’s a critical part of reading programs – teaching reading to six kids at a time or less,” Gangopadhyay said. Lesson plans are now finalized for next year, he said, calling the program the “bread and butter” of the school’s reading instruction.

In other business, Success Prep has received a waiver from the state which relieves the school of paying $60,000 for supplemental education services and $30,000 for professional development. The board can use the money as it sees fit.

Thanks to the waiver, the board is making revisions to its budget and will hold a public hearing about the changes at its February meeting.

The meeting will be advertised in The Times-Picayune. Outgoing finance director Kendall Wolfson said the advance notice is prompted by an investigative article by The Lens investigative news website about proper procedures that many school boards didn’t realize they were supposed to follow.

In other financial business, Adriaan said Success Prep was chosen for a “desk audit” by the Recovery School District. The audit will focus on dates on paperwork. Special education coordinator Elizabeth Sullivan said at the meeting she was confident there would be no problems.

Finally, mention was made of an ongoing disagreement between the school and a custodial company that lost a bid for contract work.

Board members voted at last month’s meeting to hire MainTech Facilities Solution for groundskeeping, maintenance and custodial work. Empire, a custodial company that submitted a bid, is protesting that decision. Board members were told that the school is waiting to resolve the protest before moving forward with the MainTech contract.

This is the second time Empire has protested the board’s decision. In September, the board voted for another company and Empire protested, prompting the board to resubmit its request for proposals.

The next board meeting will be Feb. 9.

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