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Reading scores vary; strategic plan needed to monitor teachers; board OKs hiring grant writer

At February’s monthly meeting of Intercultural Charter’s board of directors, six members reported on training they received recently from the Louisiana Charter School Association.

Member Larry Boudin called the training informative, particularly as regards the guidance board members should provide to the charter schools they serve. Member Tap Bui said she came away with an enhanced understanding of a board member’s obligation to committee work. Member Cam Tam-Tranh said she learned that type 5 charters have been assigned a liaison to facilitate their dealings with the Recovery School District.

A committee was formed, comprising Bui, Boudin and board member Jerome Jordan, to maintain a relationship with the charter school association and take advantage of future training opportunities. Trainings are scheduled on weekends and cost the board between $500 and $1,000.  Boudin agreed to seek grants or other funding for future trainings.

In other business, principal Dayphne Burnett reported on results of the school’s DIBELS testing of reading skills among students in kindergarten through third grade. Board members have received individual teacher reports for each class. Results were uneven, Burnett acknowledged. One kindergarten class did much better than another, for example, and the first-grade results have worsened since the beginning of the year.

Burnett attributed the decline in the first-grade performance to the recent enrollment of five first-graders who are not native English speakers. Burnett said she is hiring a new staff member who can meet the needs of students who lack fluency in English.

Second-graders showed the most progress. Their test results are being further evaluated to understand the reasons for this success. Burnett said that a strategic plan to increase student literacy has been implemented.

Jerome asked for an executive summary of the DIBELS data that will identify precisely what the problems are and how they will be addressed. In asking for board support, Burnett noted that last year the whole fourth grade failed the state’s high-stakes LEAP test and that some second-graders need intervention. She asked the board to seek grants to supplement the school’s restricted budget. She agreed that teachers must also be monitored to ensure quality instruction and that a strategic plan must be created to evaluate them. Tam-Tranh said that board member Alvaro Alcazar has been assigned to this task and that Burnett should follow up with him.

Reporting on school finances, school administrator Tom Slager said the state Department of Education was about to reimburse the school for $107,196 in expenses. He said that the school’s obligations come to $559,457, of which over $400,000 is owed to EdisonLearning, the for-profit education management company with whom the school is severing relations;  $106,000 to First Student, a text book company; $7,000 to the Recovery School District; $4,200 to Entergy, and $3,253 to Home Depot.  Slager said that the school is behind on many payments but is not being charged interest for the money owed.

Slager recommended that the school hire a grant writer to help reduce debts and increase revenues. He estimated that the school could attract over $10 million in new or continuing grants at an estimated cost of $16,000 for the grant writer. The board voted to approve hiring a grant writer.

The 90-minute meeting ended at 7: 45. Board members present also included Vong Nguyen. An audience of four people included a reporter from The Lens.

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