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Board trims some funding requests but approves four; seeks to develop protocol

The Warren Easton Board of Directors granted requests for funding from several groups at their monthly meeting, April 18.

The board unanimously approved the dance team’s request for $3,000 to cover travel expenses to nationals in Florida.  The team won the state competition and will compete in Orlando at the end of June.

The Parent Teacher Student Organization requested $1,900 to subsidize the cost of their  annual Teacher Appreciation Luncheon.  Their Endymion fundraiser was rained out, yielding only $80 instead of the couple of thousand they were hoping for, principal Alexina Medley said.

After a motion was made to grant the full amount, member Jeff Zapata took the floor. The PTSO’s bank statements showed a balance of $9,000 as of  April 11, he said. Administrative Assistant Steve Costa pointed out that the PTSO awards 10 scholarships of $500 annually, for a total of $5,000. Suggestions were made ranging from covering the cost of the cake (the board traditionally provides dessert) to funding the full amount. Member Brenda Christiansen’s motion to provide $1,500 failed on a 3-4 vote. Member David Benelli proposed amending the amount to $1,000, which passed 6-1, with Christiansen voting no.

The English Through Travel program requested $5,000 toward their Paris visit.  The trip will take 11 students and three chaperones to Paris from June 1 to June 11.  The total cost is $44,000 and the group has raised $15,000 thus far. The board was split in discussion.

“This is a voluntary thing that they have decided to do,” Zapata said in reference to the ETT program, adding, “I’m concerned we may open up a floodgate.”

“The [dance] competition — they’ve proven [themselves]; they’ve won state and will go on to compete for a national title,” he said.

“This is not a trip to Disney World,” member John Broussard countered. “For kids to be able to see a place bigger than their textbook or the internet says a lot.”

A motion to grant the ETT program $3,000 passed 5-2, with Zapata and member Ronald McDonald voting no.

When a final funding request cropped up in new business, board members joked that the floodgates had indeed opened. Costa, who also serves as a student council adviser, requested $2,939 to help send 10 or 11 students to the Louisiana Youth Seminar at Louisiana State University for a week in July. In the past two summers, Warren Easton has sent more students to the leadership conference than any other school.

“Why do we have to send 10?” McDonald asked immediately after the request.

“I don’t think that’s the question,” president David Garland responded; “I think it’s how much we would want to give.”

In discussion members brought up the value of the leadership conference. Medley pointed out that normally school dances fund some of these requests, but there were no dances this school year.  In the end the board granted $2,500 on a 6-1 vote, with McDonald voting no.

“The dominoes have started to fall,” McDonald said after the vote.

“These are all valid requests for helping the kids,” Garland said in response.

In response to the increase in funding requests the board discussed developing a protocol for applicants to follow. Garland said he would also like to see an annual budget laid out by the board for grants.

In project updates, facilities manager Ken Ducote said the contractor upgrading windows has been given a May 1 deadline, at which point the contract would be taken over by the bond company.  A video probe of the roof drains will be done soon, amid concern that they’re backing up onto the roof.  Ducote said there is also concern that some existing plumbing vent stacks may have wrongly been used as drains when the roof was redone.

Financial officer Mike Greer passed out the preliminary budget for next year.  He asked that board members look it over before the next meeting and send any questions to him or the finance committee. He said that the school will be adding a math teacher and an English teacher.  He also expects transportation costs to increase by three percent.

Medley’s update included third-quarter reports on interventions, attendance, and social work.  The school’s attendance rate stands at 95 percent for the year to date.  Saturday detentions have increased each quarter, from 132 in the first quarter to 200 in the third.  Medley said this trend is seen every year. Her report was accepted by the board.

The Hall of Fame committee reported their May event will provide $53,000 in scholarships for 18 seniors. Of this money, Sandra Bullock will fund five scholarships of $5,000.  Ten scholarships of $2,500 are funded through donations and proceeds from the golf tournament. Three scholarships of $1,000 are funded by the Rotary Club of New Orleans.

The board approved their March meeting minutes and accepted financial statements. Two motions were approved to provide $150 for a security guard, and $600 for refreshments for the Hall of Fame event.

Members present included Garland, Zapata, Benelli, McDonald, Broussard, Christiansen, Charlie Petrey, Robert Delle and ex-officio member Sal Genovese.  School staff included Medley, Costa, Greer, Janet Gaudet, Mervin Jackson, and Joseph Gilyot. The audience included 10 Xavier University students present as observers as well as a reporter from The Lens.

The meeting began at 6 p.m. and ended at 7:45 p.m.  The next regular board meeting will be May 16.

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