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Budget, building plans set for public review; slight deficit noted

The Morris Jeff board discussed board expansion, green space, and a year-end deficit at their monthly meeting, May 17.

With the board one member short of the seven mandated by charter law, board chair Aesha Rasheed called for nominations at their April meeting. The board responded swiftly, nominating and unanimously approving two new members.

The board will welcome Dr. Jana Smith, a former Saints cheerleader who now chairs the Health and Physical Education Department at Dillard University, and Stacey Gengel, a school psychologist, community member and Morris Jeff volunteer.

New enrollment is currently under way, with over 40 students having enrolled the week of the meeting. Rasheed asked school principal Patricia Perkins to provide break downs on student and staff composition for next year.

State iLeap results were scheduled to become available on May 18, and parents were to be notified if their child did not pass and will have to repeat the year.

The school held another community engagement meeting on May 8 to discuss building plans for the Fiske Howard site.  The next and final meeting will focus on the building’s façade.

There has been no movement on the potential acquisition of neighboring lots.  Rasheed had a preliminary discussion with the Recovery School District about the possibility and will schedule a follow-up meeting to further explore the option.

To address the current site’s dearth of green space, Perkins is working on an agreement with neighboring Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church for daily use of its yard.  For the next two years, the school may also bring in Playworks, an organization that provides a trained play professional to model healthy and fun recess activities.

Finance chair Melissa Jagers informed the board that the school is in a “spending deficit position,” with expenses projected to exceed revenues by $99,403.  The school’s large fund balance will comfortably cover the shortfall. Jagers attributed the deficit in part to the purchase of smart boards and to standard financing practices, such as counting a two-year grant as revenue only for the first year.

RSD superintendent Patrick Dobard will visit the school on May 18 to meet with school representatives.

Over the weekend following the meeting, the school planned to sell coffee and iced tea at Bayou Boogaloo along Bayou St. John.  A group of Morris Jeff students were scheduled to perform at the Kids Tent as part of the festivities.

The board closed with a heartfelt, send-off for Sherah Leboeuf, director of finance and operations, who is moving to Newark to help a start-up school.

The 70-minute meeting ended at 7:20 p.m.  The board will next meet May 24 at 5 p.m. for a budget hearing.  The next regularly scheduled board meeting is June 21 at 6 p.m.

In addition to Rasheed and Jagers, board members Jolene Jeff and Belinda Cambre were present; board members Wanda Guillaume and Jennifer Weishaupt were absent.  Perkins, Leboeuf and two members of the public were also in attendance.

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