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School faces big debts ahead of shutdown; applications for transfer due by month's end

The school has money enough to see it through the end of the term but perhaps not enough to cover expenses as the schools closes down, the Sojourner Truth board learned at its monthly meeting, Feb. 28.

Enrollment stood at 230 as of Feb. 1, a marked improvement on the last-reported count of 168 but still short of attendance forecasts from earlier in the year.  As a result the school will see a reduction in financing which “will be substantial,” board member Keith Crawford said.

Regardless, Crawford maintains that the school should be able to “end the year with a small surplus” which ought to be put toward closing expenses. While pleased that the school has sufficient funds to sustain operations through year’s end, board chairman Bob Burvant emphasized that unpaid balances with creditors and closing expenses present serious hurdles.

As once example, Burvant said the Durham Bus Company recently served the school with a lawsuit over unpaid fees.  Burvant is seeking legal representation for the matter. In addition, the school’s maintenance and supply company recently pulled the plug on services, sent a demand letter for about $70,000 and recently entered the school without formal permission and removed materials, some of which may belong to the school, Burvant said, adding that the school will respond accordingly.

In an effort to implement a school-wide discipline system and improve behavior, the school is readopting the Kickboard program which tracks both disciplinary infractions and positive behavior.  The school hopes that having a consistent discipline program will provide a better platform for addressing inappropriate behavior.  The staff is reportedly in favor of the return of this program.

Roughly 20 parents showed up for a recent school fair to meet with representatives from area schools where students might transfer as Sojourner Truth shuts down.  The school also held a session for parents and students to offer assistance with applications for other schools, but only two parents came. Another event to facilitate student transition is planned for March 6 when representatives from area schools will come to Sojourner Truth to meet with students.

While few students have submitted applications to new schools, the administration assumes that most students will do so in the week before the March 31 deadline.  The school is calling parents and guardians and keeping track of which students have and haven’t submitted applications.

Seniors will receive their senior rings at a ceremony on March 8. An anonymous benefactor has provided rings for those who didn’t order one.

The 40 minute meeting adjourned at 6:41. Auditors will present their findings at the next board meeting, scheduled for March 20 at 6 pm. Crawford “doesn’t anticipate any issues or findings.”

In addition to Burvant and Crawford, members present included Alice Parkerson, Lawliss Turner, Charline Wright, Sybil Favrot and Annie Balart Michaels. Board members Elizabeth Rhodes, Ryan Mast and Victoria Johnson were absent. Three school administrators and six members of the public were in attendance.

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