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Mays projects pool of red ink as it folds; records forwarded to families, new teachers

Benjamin Mays Preparatory School staff are projecting a significant budget deficit when they turn in the school’s charter at the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

Finance director Brent Washington told board members at a Monday night meeting that he anticipates a $270,000 shortfall at the end of the year. School financials currently show an operating loss of about $203,000.

“What’s driving that deficit?” board member Damon Burns asked.

“Transportation,” Washington said.

Last year transportation costs ran about $300,000, Washington said; this year they’ll top  $490,000.

Washington said he has been working with the school’s authorizer, the Recovery School District, to pay late bills. Board chairman Sidney Barthelemy asked that Washington include him on all correspondence with RSD as they try to settle accounts in the coming months.

The 359-student school lost its charter and, by district order, is shutting down rather than being taken over by another charter operator.

Printed lists of job openings now hang on a brightly colored bulletin board in the staff break-room where the board of directors meets.

Principal Shanda Gentry said parents and community members feel they are being “robbed of a neighborhood school,” even though McDonogh 42 Elementary will temporarily relocate to the Mays campus next year. Gentry said it’s not a long-term solution for families, as the school will eventually move back to Treme after its building is renovated.

Gentry said stakeholders are frustrated by Mays’ impending closure and hope RSD officials will further explain the decision. She said she expects parents and community members to request a meeting with RSD superintendent Patrick Dobard.

In order to help parents with the transition Gentry said she is giving each family a copy of the student’s records. She also has also given special-education teachers until next month to hand-deliver customized learning plans — Individualized Education Programs — to their new teachers.

In an unusual move, board members informally adjourned their meeting and called another meeting to order without leaving their seats. The action was designed to provide two sets of minutes, said Barthelemy, because the March meeting had been cancelled.

The meeting began at 5:50 p.m., members informally closed that meeting and opened a second meeting at 6:27 p.m. and adjourned at 6:40 p.m.

Board members Barthelemy, Burns, Todd James, Raashand Hamilton and John Williams were present.

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About Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned to New Orleans in the fall of 2014 after covering education for the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with majors in journalism and social welfare and a concentration in educational policy studies.

  • nickelndime

    “What’s driving that deficit?” at Benjamin Mays? When a nonprofit charter school board member asks this kind of question in May, less than 30 days before the school closes its doors forever, does anyone really think that this board (and there are others like this) knew or knows what has been going on either financially or academically? Why doesn’t the Mays BOD ask for grant money from New Schools for New Orleans, Inc. like the other charter schools that are operating “in the red” do? Maybe they can ask Ben Kleban or Sarah Usdin (NSNO Founder and a sitting OPSB member) to intercede on their behalf to close out their books. Another failed charter school experiment – lost years of schooling in children’s lives, too many administrators and excessive salaries, too many non-teaching personnel, blah blah blah.