Success Prep Academy school leaders have arranged unique partnerships with several prominent New Orleans residents including Chef John Besh, local musician Irvin Mayfield and author Ruby Bridges.

Erik Kelt, Middle School Assistant Principal, told board members that he met or made contact with each of the individuals to see how they can impact the school and its students.

Kelt said the goal is to garner more publicity for the school, and present students with successful role models.

“It trickles down into test scores,” Kelt said.

The partnership with Mayfield seeks to fund a section in the school library for New Orleans literature, Kelt said. Plans for Bridges include a book fair and a student field trip. In 1960, Bridges became the first African-American student to attend a formerly all white school in New Orleans.

With Chef Besh’s help, Kelt said, a school garden could be installed with native species which could then be transplanted to Louisiana wetlands to form animal habitats. Other ideas for Besh included the formation of a student cooking club, and a night out at a Besh-owned restaurant where students could learn about cuisine and dining etiquette.

This isn’t the first time the school has enjoyed mentorships and support from well-known names and organizations in the community. Previously the school partnered with news anchor Soledad O’Brien, the New Orleans Saints football team, and a violinist from the New Orleans Jazz Institute.

Kelt will meet with Mayfield, Besh and Bridges within the next month to finalize plans.

In other business, Success Prep will make changes to its school lunch and bus transportation services. Principal Niloy Gangopadhyay said the school has transitioned its food service to Revolution Foods, after the company resubmitted a lower bid. The school will also move to a tiered bus transportation system that will use one less bus per day.

Board members were briefed about the increased population of Success Prep students needing special services. The number of students with specific learning disabilities has doubled from nine students last year to eighteen this year, Gangopadhyay told the board. There is an open position for a Kindergarten teacher to handle this additional workload.

Gangopadhyay reported that recent benchmark testing showed growth in English and Language Arts, especially among the school’s third graders.

Success Prep board members are hopeful that the school’s charter will be extended, despite the school’s failing School Performance Score. School leaders and board members had met with the Recovery School District to discuss the extension.

“I walked away from that meeting with a spring in my step,” Board Chairman Anderson Baker said. “They like what they see from us, academically and financially.”

Gangopadhyay said he was concerned about damage from Hurricane Isaac that might not be repaired before an upcoming site-visit by the RSD to assess the school’s facilities. Gangopadhyay said the school is scrambling to fix the damages as quickly as possible. The school lost seven instructional days due to the hurricane.

In other business, Success Prep was given a clean financial audit by Don Wheat of the firm Carr, Riggs, & Ingram. The school has a healthy cash balance with enough cash flow to support 128 school days this year, Wheat said. That’s up from 97 days of cash flow from last year.

“It was an easy audit; everything went smoothly,” Wheat said.