Sustaining a balanced budget and preparing for the implementation of Common Core State Standards were the central focuses of discussion at FirstLine Schools’ board meeting last week.

The two-hour meeting, which took place at Arthur Ashe Charter School from 5:15 to 7:15 pm, went into executive session for 20 minutes while board members discussed CEO compensation, and was adjourned shortly thereafter by Vice Chairman Gregory St. Etienne.

Growing and maintaining a reserve fund equaling 10 percent of the charter network’s total budget is a major goal this year, according to finance committee chairman Stephen Rosenthal.

“We have $270,000 in contingency money,” he said, “It’s very important, if at all possible, that we move that to surplus. This is our last year of additional revenue. Ten percent would be $3.4 million.”

The network’s operating expenses are $34 million, not counting depreciation expenses, according to Rosenthal.

The week before classes began, FirstLine’s financial team learned that the network’s portion of the Striving Readers’ Literacy Grant had been reduced by more than $300,000, from $852,569 to $515,900. FirstLine’s high-risk allocation, which provides extra funding for students with special needs, is 82 percent lower than it was last year, dropping from $924,403 to $166,566. This is due to “dilution of funds brought on by a streamlining of the application process,” according to Brett Hunt, FirstLine’s financial adviser.

Kirsten Feil, FirstLine’s director of academic support, gave a twenty-minute presentation educating board members about Common Core State Standards, a federal education initiative.

According to the mission statement on, “The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”

According to Feil’s presentation, English/Language Arts standards will be heightened by Common Core as a result of more direct comprehension questions on tests and assessments, as well as a conscious balance of fiction and nonfiction reading assignments, which means reading literature other than textbooks in science, social studies and elective courses.

The big goal for Common Core in mathematics is to have students familiar with algebra by the eighth grade, Feil said. For this to work, she said, students must have a coherent understanding of the concepts they are taught.

Many of Common Core’s standards have students learning concepts a year or two before they would using current standards.

“That’s the challenge we are experiencing and working on,” Feil said. “We don’t have eighth graders with nine years of Common Core coming in, so we are trying to fill gaps.”

FirstLine oversees operations at five charter schools: Arthur Ashe Charter School, John Dibert Community School, Samuel J. Green Charter School, Langston Hughes Academy and Joseph Clark Preparatory High School.

Present at the meeting were board members St. Etienne, Rosenthal,  Kim Henry, George Freeman, Catherine Pierson, Alison Hartman, Christian Rhodes, Brian Egana and Monique Cola; Chief Executive Officer Jay Altman, Chief Operating Officer Joseph Neary and staff members Feil, Brett Hunt and Rebekah Cain.