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Singleton board changes meeting time without proper notice

The board of directors for James M. Singleton Charter School changed the time of its monthly meeting by two hours Tuesday, but failed to notify the press as required by Louisiana’s Open Meetings Law.

Charter organizations are required to follow the law, which includes a provision that requires “mailing a copy of the notice to any member of the news media who requests notice of such meetings; any such member of the news media shall be given notice of all meetings in the same manner as is given to members of the public body.”

The YMCA-James M. Singleton Charter School Board of Directors is a public body under the law. The Lens had requested in September that reporters be emailed or otherwise notified in advance of any meetings or meeting changes.

While The Lens did receive notification of the original Oct. 15 meeting, in letter form, it didn’t get notice that the time of the meeting had changed. According to the organization’s Director of Administration Rhenette Tobias, members of the board had been notified Thursday that the meeting would be held at 10 a.m.  Tuesday, rather than noon.

“We called people about that one,” Tobias told The Lens Tuesday afternoon, referring to board members she contacted.

In a follow-up conversation, Tobias added that she had surveyed board members on Thursday about the potential change in time, and had called on Monday to confirm the meeting time, and also to see if there was going to be a quorum.

Several board members couldn’t make the noon meeting because of another conflict, Tobias said.

It wasn’t immediately clear how well members of the public had been notified of the change in meeting time.

When asked if the notice had been put on the website within 24 hours in advance of the meeting, Tobias said she didn’t know. She asked Director of Membership Jay H. Banks, who said that he didn’t know if the website had been changed at that time.

The Open Meetings Law also requires those organizations that have websites to post meeting times and agendas online.

Banks said the organization would be more transparent in the future when it came to notifying press and public.

“We will incorporate that better moving forward,” Banks added. “It was an oversight.”

While there was no information on the organization’s home page about Tuesday’s meeting, one events calendar did say by Tuesday afternoon that the meeting had been scheduled for 10 a.m.

Documents given out during the meeting indicate that Singleton Charter School fell 70 students below the projected enrollment for the 2013-14 school year, resulting in staff cutbacks.

“An adjustment in teaching staff was enforced on September 16, 2013 due to the 70 student decline in enrollment,” the Singleton update read, adding that eight instructional staff members were let go due to a “Reduction in Workforce.”

The Oct. 1 count was 570 students, including prekindergarten. The school expected 640 for all grades.

Financial documents handed out during the meeting also show revised 2013-14 budget projections. With 530 students in kindergarten or above, the school got about $4.33 million in per-pupil funds, versus the $4.9 the organization anticipated.

Total revenue decreased from about $6.34 million to about $5.62 million.

In balancing  the budget, the amount allocated to instructional staff salaries was decreased from about $2.21 million to about $1.87 million. Some other miscellaneous services, including repair and maintenance, student transportation, telecommunication and custodial supplies were also cut to bring down total spending.

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About Della Hasselle

Della Hasselle, a freelance journalist and producer, reports environmental and criminal justice stories for The Lens. A graduate of Benjamin Franklin High School and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, Hasselle lived in New York for 10 years. While up north, she produced and anchored news segments, wrote feature stories and reported breaking news for, a hyperlocal news site. Before that, she worked at the New York Daily News. She obtained her master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She can be reached at (917) 304-6121.

  • nickelndime

    It’s always the teaching personnel and student services that get cut, not administrative pay, which is exorbitant and competitive with big business (not nonprofits) in other parts of the country. This is a sham now, and it was a sham when the OPSB first approved the charter run by the Dryades YMCA (Gail Glapion, Ellenese Brooks Simms, Jimmy Fahrenholtz…blah blah blah). Then it won approval for another 10 years under Anthony “Tony” Amato – pre-Katrina. Post-Katrina, it was taken over by the State, and as you can see, it just isn’t going to behave properly – is it? (she didn’t know that he didn’t know that she didn’t know and we will do better in the future…). We have Friends of King flaunting violations (revels in “bad boy” behavior) left and right, not to mention all the other violations that continue under the guise of such phrases, “do well in end of course tests,” “enrollment on track,” more money,” (and that’s just in the past 3 days). Hey Steve, you might want to put the reader-comment widget back. You losin’ time fast. Education in this city is already under water, and it’s going to get buried further with millions of dollars going to certain nonprofits and individuals who play footsie so well with BESE, the LDOE, OPSB…