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Decline in enrollment may require dismissing some faculty members

The official Oct. 1 enrollment count came in far below last year’s number at Intercultural Charter School. Facing proportionately decreased revenue, at their October monthly meeting the board of directors approved a large reduction in the school’s projected budget that will likely require faculty dismissals.

“This is a very painful experience,” board president Cam Thanh Tran noted, with other board members and the principal echoing agreement.

Chief financial officer Tom Slager said expenses would need to be lowered by between $400,000 and 450,000, despite a $60,000 increase in grant money last quarter.

The board authorized Slager and principal Pamela Randall to make necessary cuts before the Nov. 1 deadline for budget adjustments.  With salaries dominating expenses, it is likely that some teachers and staff will lose their jobs, they said.

The school has until Feb. 1 to increase the student count. That would increase per-pupil state funding for the year and make the school eligible for a grant ranging from $140,000 to as much as $200,000. Another possibility is reducing the number of school buses from five to four, a decision that will be made this week.

Board vice chairman Alvaro Alcazar said the school might be eligible to share a $250,000 grant from the Walton foundation to connect with Loyola University’s math and science outreach program for high school kids. Under such an arrangement, 10 eighth graders would be provided math and science support through high school, said Alcazar, a Loyola professor. The grant money would be divided between the school and the university.

Anticipating an increase in health insurance, a staff committee explored options and reported back to the board. The staff was evenly divided on whether to increase the deductible or increase co-payments as a way to lower premiums, teachers Justine Szymala and Stan Sholtz said in their presentation. The board and teachers discussed adding the option of a stipend for those who preferred an outside insurer, but ultimately settled on offering two or three options available through the current insurer.

The board emphasized that they support offering multiple insurance options as long as costs are manageable.

Randall reported that a recent site visit by the Recovery School District “went great,” as did her interview by the RSD representatives. She said she heard no negatives from the classroom visitors and that the RSD found no violations in school record keeping. Tran said RSD would come back with a “desk audit” after further reviewing financial records.

Kathleen Carlin, the board secretary, lauded Randall for “pulling it all together” – not merely filling out forms, but taking the time to do everything in full detail. The board as a whole thanked the principal.

In response to a question from the audience during discussion of board recruitment, Tran said the board’s  usual practice has been to recruit at certain meetings, or by running into interested people. Tran encouraged anyone who knows a good candidate to tell the board. Board members cannot be employed by the school, and it helps if they’re business-minded, or good at fundraising, Tran said.

Closing with brief facility and technology updates, Tran asked that a board member take charge of the search for a new building. Board member Jerome Jordan has initiated a gap analysis in order to improve technological functioning,

The board moved next month’s meeting up to Nov. 12 and adjourned at 7:42 p.m.

Additional board members present were Larry Baudouin; Francis J. Cascio, treasurer; Ed Blouin; and Vong Nguyen. Those absent were Tap Bui and Donovan DiLorenzo. The meeting was attended by seven members of the general public, one of them a reporter for The Lens.

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