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Funding cuts and low school scores offset by selection for federal arts program

At their monthly board meeting, May 10, ReNEW’s board of directors learned about new programs and cuts to anticipated funding reimbursements.

Controller Tanya Bryant said cuts from the federal Title I program – which augments funding for low-income and at-risk students – came to about $80,000 after it was determined that students over age 18 do not qualify for the support.

Moreover, adjustments made this spring cost Batiste Cultural Arts Academy and SciTech Academy roughly $70,000 in funding that was anticipated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Network executive director Gary Robichaux predicts all three of ReNEW’s elementary schools will receive school performance scores lower than 74.9 and thus fall below the state’s minimum standard. He noted that standards for each letter grade have changed again this year.  In 2010-11, a score of 74.9 would have translated to a “D”. Now the schools will be tagged with an “F”. Scores on the state’s standardized LEAP test are expected on May 18, and iLEAP scores the following week.

Robichaux said Batiste Cultural Arts Academy has been chosen as one of eight schools nationwide to participate in the Turnaround Arts initiative.  The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities launched the public-private partnership in the hope that arts education could help some of the nation’s lowest performing schools improve their performance.  The president’s committee selected the eight schools from among more than 1200 that have received federal School Improvement Grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

As part of the program the school will receive art supplies, musical instruments, in-school professional development, and fostered partnerships with community arts organizations. The school will also receive a visit from movie star Alfre Woodard, a member of the  president’s committee.

ReNEW is lengthening its school day next year, in large part to accommodate arts programming. Robichaux said he believed this was a contributing factor in the school’s selection.

Robichaux said ReNEW has been approved by the Recovery School District to educate children from birth to four years old at the ReNEW Early Childhood Center in the Bauduit building on the new high school campus.

Robichaux said 20 percent of ReNew high school students have children and will be given enrollment preference. The hope is to open the center in August. Staff may also be allowed to enroll their children at regular daycare rates.

Robichaux also said the network’s redesigned web site is up and running.

The board contacted member Essence Harris, who has not been in attendance since the fall, and asked her to step down but did not receive a response.  Their bylaws state that missing three or more consecutive meetings without prior approval is cause for removal.  The board approved a motion to remove Harris.  The board also approved minutes of the board’s April meeting.

After reviewing several requests for proposals, the finance committee decided to stay with Postlethwaite & Netterville, for the upcoming year’s audit.

Members in attendance included Brian Weimer, Sandra Cahill, Kathy Conklin, Martin Feibelman, Greg Harris, Donald Herry, Randy Roig, Sharon Courtney, Mary Brown and Siona LaFrance.  Staff members Robichaux, Bryant, and Kevin Gutierrez were present.  Three members of the public were present as well as a reporter from The Lens.

The meeting began at 5:40 p.m. and adjourned at 6:31 p.m.  The next meeting will be  June 14 at 5:30 p.m. at Batiste Cultural Arts Academy.

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