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Hynes leaders seek energy cost savings

Edward Hynes Elementary School racked up a $25,000 energy bill in December, according to Entergy.

Now, school officials are trying to learn why.

Soaring energy bills topped the agenda at Hynes’ Jan. 28 board meeting, as school officials met with the school’s design and construction firm and city energy officials to remedy the issue.

Facilities manager Ken Ducote and Principal Michelle Douglas met with facilities personnel from the Recovery School District and Orleans Parish School Board, along with representatives from Sodexo, Inc., GVA Engineering and Gootee Construction.

The main course of action, Ducote said, is to ensure the school’s state-of-the-art power distribution system is working properly.

“Because this is a new building, a totally new electrical system, and with some punch list items relative to energy use that needs to be completed, we have to continue running tests and might have to wait a bit to resolve the issue,” Ducote said. “Until the system is working completely, we do not know if the energy consumption is high or on par.”

Hynes had previously met with Entergy officials last summer to address erroneous billing rates. Back then, they said they were budgeting $15,000 a month for utilities.

In other facility news, Douglas announced that Hynes had received a $60,000 donation from Intuit, as part of Intuit CEO Brad Smith’s pledge to build a playground at the school. A provisional design structure for the playground has been drawn up, with construction slated for May at a cost of $59,000.

Douglas said that Hynes is looking to build a smaller playground for its pre-kindergarten and kindergarten pupils. The playground is expected to cost about $60,000 and will be paid by funds raised from the school’s gala last year, she said.

Hynes was among named a “Top Gains” school by the state, which qualifies the school to receive a monetary incentive of close to $8,500. Top Gains is a designation given to schools that make significant improvement from one year to the next in student standardized tests scores, attendance and other measures, depending on the grade levels served.

Hynes also received about $8,600 from the Pro Bono Publico Foundation, an organization that aims to support reform efforts in New Orleans public schools. The money will be used to purchase iMAC laptops for Hynes’ visual arts program, Douglas said.

On finance, chief financial officer John Gaudry said while expenses have risen beyond what was budgeted, school revenues are better than expected. He said that’s partly due to donations and partly due to higher-than-projected enrollment. Gaudry said he expects Hynes to end the year with a $164,500 operating surplus, higher than anticipated at its budget meeting last summer.

The board went into a 20-minute executive session to discuss the professional competence of principal Douglas.

The board reconvened and adjourned the meeting at 6:10 p.m. without taking any further action.

The 70-minute board meeting was attended by members Alvin Meister, Barbara Richard, Helene Derbigny and Cassandra Youmans, and included three school staff  along with the Lens reporter.

The next board meeting is Feb. 25 at 5 p.m.


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