Directors of the Benjamin Mays Preparatory School say they’re in the dark when it comes to anticipating operating costs they’ll face next semester after taking over the building formerly occupied by Frantz Elementary.

That revelation was part of the discussion of next year’s budget during the board’s monthly meeting, April 30. Operating costs, including heating and cooling, maintenance and the like, will have a shaping influence on the rest of the budget, so the board has prioritized the effort to reach reliable projections. The Recovery School District has estimated the cost at $1 per square foot, but the board had hoped to receive more detailed breakdown by now.

The board plans to compare Frantz to other schools with similar square footage to gain a better understanding of such costs, though RSD buildings with similar square footage may include varying amounts of new and remodeled space. Newly constructed space skews projected costs lower as those areas typically require less maintenance and may still be under warranty. And because new buildings are more airtight, heating and cooling costs are usually lower.

Mays’ finance director Brent Washington said the school is about $71,000 over the projected budget for “other purchased supplies,” a spending category that includes transportation and food service costs.  Members asked Washington to start presenting itemized reports on a quarterly basis and said they will work with him on next year’s budget as numbers for the anticipated operating costs become available.

Principal Shanda Gentry said she has hired two teachers for the next school year and is looking to hire three more. She also announced that the school received a $3,500 grant from the Lupin Foundation to purchase books for the library.

Gentry is applying for grants from the federal Teacher Incentive Fund and the non-profit 21st Century Foundation.  The school is in the process of finding a grant writer who will work on commission.

Gentry is excited about the prospect of getting a 21st Century Foundation grant, as it could possibly fund courses leading to high-school equivalency degrees for parents, as well as after-school enrichment programs.  She said such programming is in line with her mission to help Ben Mays “truly become a community school.”

The board briefly reviewed Gentry’s school leader goals.  Member Kristen Ponthier suggested that Mays’ “school performance score” be a factor in her evaluation, because it  frequently represents the school in the public eye.

Gentry said “boys night out” was a great success.  Students who are the sole male in their household, were paired with a board or staff member and attended a New Orleans Hornets game.  Gentry said she hopes to continue the program.

Board president Sidney Barthelemy said the board plans to add four members.  The governance committee is reviewing other board structures and membership selection processes before amending its bylaws.

The board approved meeting minutes from March 5 and April 2.

Members present in addition to Barthelemy and Ponthier were Todd James, Jenny Hunter, John Williams and Raashand Hamilton. School administrators Gentry and Washington were present as was a reporter for The Lens.

The meeting began at 5:46 p.m. and adjourned at 7:20 p.m. The next meeting will be May 28.

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...