Concerned with low enrollment numbers earlier this year, McDonogh City Park Academy’s board of directors held off on a vote to approve its budget. But, having surpassed that target enrollment with school in session, the board approved a $4.2 million operating budget Tuesday night.

The budget was created with a projected enrollment of 425 students, but 448 students were enrolled at the charter school as of Tuesday, CEO and Principal Christine Mitchell said.

“We have a new problem this year,” board member Mary Kay Parker said. “It’s a good problem because we have more children.”

Those 23 extra students will bring additional per pupil funding to the Esplanade Avenue charter school.

As school leaders discussed a need to find sustainable funding for the school, they suggested funding from those extra students may  provide the answer. That money could allow McDonogh to hire a grant writer or development specialist.

“That gives us an extra $200,000 to do just that,” board member Monica Candal said of the additional students.

Director of Finance and Operations Keeanya Dupre said the budget approved Tuesday was the same budget presented earlier in the year. The board may amend the budget later in the year if the school’s Oct. 1 count reflects a similar or larger enrollment gap from the initial projection.

“We need to start seriously thinking about our long-term fundraising as a board,” Candal said.

To that end, the board also charged the finance committee with looking into a possible departure from the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana. The system’s rising contribution rate has many charter schools looking for other options.

“It’s gone up every year,” Parker said.

Though Parker stressed the need to explore solutions, she also insisted that any possible transition be thoroughly investigated, planned and discussed with faculty.

“You’re going to have an upset faculty,” Parker said, if the school were to leave the state retirement system.

“Can we split them?” Candal questioned, wondering if some teachers could continue in the program while younger teachers could begin 401(k) plans.

“No,” said Parker. “I would love to do a hybrid.” However, the state does not allow it, she said.

Parker said next year would be the time to switch when the school renews its charter.

Mitchell said the Recovery School District staff will visit the school Sept. 12 as part of the charter renewal process. RSD staff will meet with senior school staff and the board president.

Members Nelson, Candal, Mike Plemer, Lee Hampton, Laura Charbonnet, Mary Kay Parker and Emily Waterfield were present for the hour-and-a-half meeting. Member Mike Bagot was absent.

The board will meet again Sept. 17 at 5:30 p.m.

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...