At their Jan. 10 meeting, board members at Success Preparatory Academy discussed reaching out to larger corporations for sponsorships and looking to re-configure the school building in order to accommodate more students.

Success Prep’s 405 students meet in a building without traditional classrooms. Walls don’t separate classrooms. Partitions do. It’s been a challenge to find more space as the school expands to more students and more grades, lower school Principal Niloy Gangopadhyay said.

“It’s not preventing students from learning,” she said, “but it could be better. It’s become problematic.”

Gangopadhyay said a social worker has been coming to the school, and administrators were scrambling to find a room she could use that was quiet and private.

“[We] met with an architect and looked at drawings of the school, focusing on enrollment for next year and what exactly our maximum enrollment can be, as far as fire codes [are concerned],” said board member Ben Blanchard, who sits on the facilities committee. He will report the findings at next month’s meeting.

On the fundraising front, new board member Ryan Bates said he wanted to focus on soliciting larger donations from corporations and small businesses.

Bates said board members and school leaders will meet with operators of the Hyatt Regency hotel that hosts conventions in New Orleans. They want to see which businesses are coming to the city that could align and assist with Success Prep’s mission and perhaps donate funds to the school.

“We’ve got to plan around that initiative. We have brochures we can leave behind and we have young professionals on the ground going out to help accomplish (our goals),” Bates said, referring to volunteers who have offered their help.

He asked the school leaders for a list of the school’s biggest needs so that they could be pitched to potential sponsors.

In other business, board members asked how teachers have been handling school safety and discussing the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting that occurred in Newton, Conn., in December.

Gangopadhyay said Success Prep has locked a side entrance door and has requested its security company to add security cameras to the outside of the building. The building’s configuration currently does not allow for teachers to be able to secure their classrooms.

Gangopadhyay said there will be increased security at the front desk for visitors. Other ideas by administrators and board members included a scanner requiring a code to enter the front gate.
As far as discussing the event with students, “You tell students you care for them…and they walked away knowing this was a wonderful place,” Gangopadhyay said.

In other business, the board is looking to add new members to it’s nine-person roster. Conflicting schedules appear to have caused problems for board members Sassy Wheeler and Avione Pichon, who have not been in attendance most of the year.

“The board attendance is not [realizing] its full potential,” Blanchard said.

Board Member Avery Corenswet added, “If you haven’t attended 10 meetings in a row, how do you catch someone up [to speed]?”

Success Prep added Ryan Bates to its board last year. Two applicants for new board member positions introduced themselves during the meeting. They were Ira Gonzales, an associate with the Adams and Reese law firm, and Blake Pool, a community member who currently sits on the board’s development committee.

Board chairman Anderson Baker said the board will vote next month on whether to add Gonzales and Pool to their team.

Also at the meeting was Makiyah Moody, who’s running the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools’ Top Shelf Initiative for identifying potential board members in the city. She works through the charter association and said she has a list of community members in the city who have expressed interest in being on boards.

Enrollment numbers at Success Prep are holding steady at 405, according to school leaders. There are two more benchmark assessment tests before the statewide iLEAP and LEAP tests are administered, and students have shown steady improvement since the beginning of the year.

The most recent assessment shows that sixth grade students scoring above reading level has increased from 21 percent at the beginning of the year to 35 percent now. Fifth graders showed even larger gains, from 28 percent on reading level from the beginning of the year to 40 percent now. The next board meeting will be held on Feb. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the school.