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Student demographics outlined; financing strategy for new school adjusted

The monthly meeting of the New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy’s board of directors, on Sept. 19, began with an update from Commandant Col. Bill Davis on who’s enrolled for the 2012-12 year.  The school now has 214 students, with males outnumbering females by a ratio of seven to three, Davis said.

The student body is roughly 38 percent non-Hispanic white, 57 percent African American, and 5 percent Hispanic, with a small number of Asian students.  “We’re within a few percentage points of what we were last year,” Davis said, “even though we had a huge turnover in student population.”

He said that about half the students live in Orleans parish, 40 percent in Jefferson, and 10 percent mostly in St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes.

Davis then updated the board on progress with its plan to sell construction bonds to pay for the academy’s future home within the Federal City development.  He said that the U.S. Navy—current owner of the site—and the Algiers Development District—which is taking over the property—have decided to abandon an earlier plan to apply for tax credits based on the historical significance of the site.

He said that the school could still qualify for such credits but would have to wait until the development district takes ownership, Dec. 1. A pending application for historic status, he said, would prevent the property changing hands.

This cuts into a revenue stream the academy was counting on.

“The impacts are primarily to us, secondarily to Federal City. There are not a lot of investors interested in investing here because of the friction,” Davis said, referring to lawsuits between the development district and the New Orleans Federal Alliance, two of the major stakeholders in the development.

The school will now have to request construction money directly from Louisiana Economic Development funds for Federal City, Davis said. He noted that the funds were allocated a while back and that the economic development agency is eager to disburse the money and close its books on the project.

“We’ve got a lot of proponents in the system,” Col. Terry Ebbert, the board president, said.

“One of our members is working the phones right now,” Davis said. Ebbert encouraged members to do what they could to gain support for the measure.

The school is up against an Oct. 31 deadline to complete an environmental review and publish the results in time to allow for 15 days of citizen response.  Davis said that the looming deadline and uncertainty surrounding the Federal City development are making the financial partners involved in the tax credit process nervous.

“It’s flowing,” Davis said of the process, “but it can’t afford a pause.”

“Bill has been working this day and night,” Ebbert said of Davis, “This is not a part-time job.”

Davis is featured in the “People to Watch” column of this month’s New Orleans magazine.  Members ribbed Davis for a picture accompanying the article that shows him holding school books and tossing an apple in the air.

Before adjourning, the board went into a 10-minute executive session to review a personnel issue.

Members present in addition to Ebbert included Carol McCall, Capt. Dave Whiddon, Dr. Marcellus Grace, James Reiss and Maj. Blake LeMaire. Lt. Gen. Jack Bergman, Courtney Bagneris, Eades Hogue, and Maj. General Walter Paulson were absent.

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