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Rusnak gets contract extension, raise; school income in black

Ben Franklin’s CEO/Principal Timothy Rusnak received a two-year contract extension and a one-time, six percent raise at the Oct. 18 Advocates for Academic Excellence in Education board meeting. The extension keeps Rusnak as head of school through June 30, 2015.

Assistant Principal Dan Casey introduced the board to Compass for School Leaders, a new program implemented in Louisiana to evaluate teacher performance, student learning and goal-setting.  Compass is already used in fifteen states across the country.

Casey noted that, “[Compass] pretty much aligns with what we’re doing already.” He said classroom observations, follow-up assessments, daily and quarterly lesson plans, and specific goal-setting at Franklin already hold teachers there to a high standard.
Casey and Rusnak were confident Franklin teachers would earn high scores with Compass. Rusnak said Franklin teachers are “overachievers who set aggressive goals for themselves and their students,” and noted that one in three students in the current senior class are National Merit finalists.

The Compass program ranks teachers on a scale of 1-4, with a score of 1.4 or lower affecting the teacher’s certification. In the end, all the state wants submitted is the teacher’s name and final Compass score, with no additional paperwork.

Rusnak pointed out that Franklin teachers already operate on a one-year contract basis.

In financial business, School Finance Director Allison Bent reported that current budget projections show an end-of-year net income of $385,000. She said last year was the first time the school made a positive net income, and only three years ago Franklin suffered a $600,000 net loss.

“We’re starting to come out of the hole, and put money away. Overall we feel we’ve started the year off on a good foot,” Bent said.

Les Alexander, Kim Bondy and Joe Horton were welcomed as the newest board members to oversee Ben Franklin.

Alexander has been on the finance committee for one year and Bondy has served on both the Ursuline Academy and New Beginnings boards. Horton is a Franklin alumnus.

Sarah Usdin, who is currently running for Orleans Parish School Board in District 3 was present for a portion of the meeting and was invited by the board to say a few words. She thanked the school (which is in District 3), and its students for volunteering around the city on different campaigns.

“We have a long way to go, but we have made tremendous progress. We need to bring progress across the entire city,” Usdin said.

Board member Mark Mayer thanked Usdin for her support of Ben Franklin in the past noting that, “the board had received funding from New Schools for New Orleans for a retreat moderator who really helped us out.”

Usdin is the founder of New Schools for New Orleans.

Other board members present included president Duris Holmes, Carl Indest, Susan Weeks, Gary Ostroske, Ingrid Labat, John Williams, and Patricia Adams.

The meeting ran from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Ben Franklin’s next scheduled meeting is Nov. 15 at 4 p.m.

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