Crescent Leadership in early discussion with Dillard about possible partnership

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Crescent Leadership Academy is in early discussion with Dillard University about potentially moving the school to the university’s Gentilly campus.

Tracy Joseph, education director for the seventh- through 12th-grade charter school, told board members March 19 that Crescent Leadership sees the possible partnership as a way to promote higher education as an achievable path for its students.

Joseph stressed that the conversation is in formative stages, and didn’t offer much more detail.

Right now, Crescent Leadership Academy is in its first year and is located at 4300 Almonaster Ave., just about four miles from Dillard. For now Joseph said, the school is arranging to take Crescent Leadership students on a tour of the historically black university to help them get a glimpse of a day in the life of a college student.

Members of the school’s board met for under an hour, discussing a range of issues from budgetary matters to board and school staffing.

Principal Chauncey Nash said school administrators met with New Schools for New Orleans officials and reported that the school is doing well, but needs to improve academic rigor. The group asked the school to clearly define its vision for a successful Crescent Leadership Academy student, he said.

Besides looking to partner with Dillard, the school has also reached out to Junior Achievement, a non-profit that aims to improve financial literacy among youth. The school is planning for about 30 students to take a Junior Achievement field trip.

Tammy Lancaster, who presented the school’s financial report on behalf of chief financial officer C.J. Bower, shared budgetary information that showed the school’s liabilities outpaced assets for February by about $47,000.

It also showed that though the year-to-date budget called for $363,747 to be spent on administrative salaries, the school as of February had spent $391,601 or almost 36 percent of the school’s personnel budget compared with the 27 percent that was planned.

Judge Helen Berrigan asked for clarification on several parts of the report. Berrigan questioned why the administrative expenses were overspent and the instructional expenses were underspent.

Year-to-date instructional salaries came in at $289,024 — about 26 percent of the personnel budget — though the school originally planned to spend $402,664, or almost 30 percent of the personnel budget, by the end of February.

Joseph explained that administrative expenses would be reimbursed by an i3 grant that the school is waiting to receive. As for instructional expenses, the school currently has one vacancy and is employing two substitute teachers.

Berrigan asked for a description of the administrative salaries.

Berrigan also expressed a concern for the number of substitutes teaching at Crescent Leadership Academy, saying that teachers on staff tend to be more connected and cohesive to students in the classroom.

Joseph said Crescent Leadership Academy’s substitute teachers are just as involved and committed as staff members are.

“The substitute teachers here, you can’t tell them apart from the staff. They’re at the teacher meetings, they’re submitting lesson plans,” Joseph said.

Joseph said the school hopes to have a projection of student enrollment by the upcoming spring break, which is April 22-26. The school is also considering a full change of uniform to dress clothes for students.

The board is still considering potential board member nominees. Berrigan said that Steve Hartman would have to be replaced as board member because health issues have prevented him from attending meetings. Berrigan said she plans to nominate Deputy U.S. Marshal Maurice Lightfoot for a board seat.

The meeting, which was originally scheduled for March 12, started at 4:32 p.m. and adjourned at 5:13 p.m.

Newly appointed board member Jim Letten, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, joined the meeting by phone, but left the call at 5 p.m. Other members present during the meeting included Berrigan, who called in, board president Anthony Doty, and Marlin Ford. Hartman was absent.

There were no audience members present. Crescent Leadership Academy is the only school governed by this school board. The next board meeting is scheduled to take place on April 16, 2013 at 4:30 p.m. at Crescent Leadership Academy, 4300 Almonaster Ave.

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