Parental volunteering and new faculty and staff dominated discussion as Ben Franklin High School’s board, Advocates for Academic Excellence in Education Inc., gathered Jan. 19 for its first monthly meeting of the new year.

Board member Susan Weeks said they’ve added a line item to the school improvement plan to “increase communication and parent involvement in the school,” which will now be checked every few months.

“My hat’s off to the administration for taking the time [to put this together],” Weeks said.

Director of admissions Lynn Jenkins said part of the drop in parental volunteering might be the higher numbers of working parents.

“Historically the people who were involved with the parents’ association, a lot of them didn’t work,” Jenkins said, adding that they had more time to devote to the school than many of today’s parents, who are “hard working, busy people.”

This doesn’t seem to affect giving, though. It’s up 30 percent over last year, said Mark Mayer, speaking for the board’s developmental committee.

“We’re seeing some success.” Mayer said. “The parent’s annual giving has really improved dramatically this year.”

Offering an end-of-year financial report, CPA Larry Holmes said, “Everything was in good shape. [Ben Franklin] has funds to work with.”

Total assets were about $1.5 million, with about $889,000 in cash.

“Our cash actually grew $48,000 this year,” Holmes said.

In addition, CEO Dr. Timothy Rusnak introduced some new faculty and staff members: Rachel Jones, a part-time art teacher, and Tara Buiayana, the new human resources administrator and secretary of the board.

Board president Duris Holmes and members Mark Mayer, Ingrid Labat, Susan Weeks, Carl Indest and Collette Creppell , G. Gary Ostroske and new board member Dr. John Williams were present. Board member Joseph Cao was absent.

The meeting began at 4:12 p.m. and ended at 5:14 p.m., and there was an audience of ten.