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[Corrected:] School faces $1.4 million deficit; leaders will trim resources, increase enrollment

Correction: An earlier version of this report mistakenly described NOCP’s deficit as a debt.

New Orleans College Prep Charter School faces a $1.4 million debt deficit that, if left as is, could persist into the 2013-2014 school year. To prevent that, the school has decided to beef up its enrollment, terminate one position, and cut its athletic budget in half.

The school’s executive director, Ben Kleban, showed board members two budget breakdowns at the New Orleans College Preparatory Academies’ May board meeting. In the first, the school could continue operating at expected losses. Under that scenario, the school would exhaust its nearly $1.9 million surplus in about 15 months, according to officials’ estimates.

Under the second scenario, the school would increase enrollment and eliminate some staff positions. The budget for athletic coaches would be cut in half, and the assistant dean in charge of in-school suspensions position would be cut. These and other school duties would be spread out to remaining faculty members.

“This [scenario] is to achieve stability in the shortest amount of time possible. It doesn’t necessarily have to happen all at once,” Kleban said.

Board member Peter Harding recommended that the board balance the two approaches. He reminded board members that they had come to this point before, but had found grants to cover the school’s losses and avoid painful cuts. If the school makes cuts for positions it later gets funding to cover, it could hurt the educational “product” they provide, he said.

The board decided to adopt this middle approach, adding an average of six students to each grade, terminating the assistant dean, and cutting the athletic budget. Kleban said he could give some faculty added duties, but that he didn’t want to cut any more positions. “I already pushed back their staffing requests,” he said. “We are already at the limits of what they think they need.”

The assistant dean had made plans to leave the school prior to the cuts, so his job security wasn’t affected, Kleban said in a later interview. Kleban also stressed that the school’s budget isn’t finalized.

The school will also seek grants and other funding opportunities to cover remaining losses. Kleban said that the annual $7857 per student the school gets from state and local sources was not enough to cover costs. He estimated that it takes $10,000 a student to run his school, and said that this is a problem he feels all New Orleans schools deal with.

Also in May, President Hal Brown announced that he would resign from his board commitments.

Present were acting Chair Kenneth Polite, Murray Pitts, Ruth Kullman, Peter Harding, Jim Raby, and Monica Edwards. Absent was member Rick Conway. Also in attendance was Ben Kleban, founder and executive director of the school, as well as Harry Larks, Wayne Jones, and Nolan McSwain, a group of Booker T. Washington alumni. Robert Morris from the Uptown Messenger was also present.

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