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Facility costs mount as temporary campus ages; health plan frustrates teachers

Intercultural’s financial woes once again dominated the agenda at the monthly board meeting, as board members and school administrators discussed ways to remedy a steady stream of facility costs.

Seven years of constant repairs and maintenance at the schools current, albeit temporary, facility, have taken a toll on school expenses, the board said. Also, the $400,000 debt owed to Edison, a for-profit management company, has still not been resolved.

School officials announced that ongoing problems with faulty air-conditioning units and a non-working telephone system are among several problems plaguing the facility. Teachers also complained that some buildings lack newer computers and internet access.

“We were only supposed to be here for five years…. and now it’s been seven and the problems with the facility are starting to impact our budget,” board member Jerome Jordan said about the constant building repairs. “The cost of upkeep to this facility has strained our budget.”

In an effort to resolve facility expenses, and on the advice of school financial director Tom Slager, the board voted to accept a $50,000 Capital One loan to help pay for repairs. The board described it as a “contingency plan” that will quickly address ongoing issues.

Still, the board plans to meet with Recovery School District (RSD) officials to discuss a permanent school site, and ways the RSD could help pay for current facility maintenance costs.

In her first school report, principal Pamela Randall said cooperation between teachers and the new administrative team has helped soothe the transition in leadership.

She told the board she was confident the new standards put in place will result in higher student academic performance, and was optimistic about the RSD’s upcoming decision to extend or renew Intercultural’s charter.

“Even if we don’t hit the 75 [school performance] score, the growth we are showing at this school and the  improvements we have made to the facility gives us a very good chance to continue operating,” Randall said.

The RSD will decide by October whether to grant the school a three-year renewal of the  charter that expires next year

On a similar note, school officials announced it was 40 students short of its 450-pupil enrollment target. Randall added that Intercultural’s academic status– currently rated as failing– prompted a few parents to withdraw their kids from the school. However, school officials were confident that under-enrollment will not become an issue, and have drawn up plans to seek unregistered students through the RSD OneApp process.

In other agenda, school officials announced that teachers intend to form a committee to address rising health insurance rates, and will inform the board of their preferred insurance provider at a future board meeting .

Stan Sholtz, a special education teacher at the school, spoke on behalf of the committee. He said the current health insurance policy, which expires at the end of the year, had become a sore issue with his fellow staff member and some teachers were even contemplating leaving the school over it.

The board said it would do its best to address staff concerns and welcomed the committee input on the matter.

Lastly, a representative from Community Legion– a men’s group dedicated to the enrichment of eastern New Orleans– informed the board that the group wanted to participate in school activities. Wilfred Norris said Community Legion would be willing to aid students in various ways such as tutoring, community engagement and fundraising.

The two-hour board meeting ended at 8:10 p.m.

The next board meeting is September 20 at 6 p.m.

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