The Success Preparatory Academy Board of Directors addressed concerns about the attendance record of the Treme-based school’s teachers at the board’s monthly meeting Nov. 7.
According to School Director Niloy Gangopadhyay, the beginning of the year has been marked by more sick and leave days taken by teachers and staff members than in past years.
While Gangopadhyay didn’t have a firm number on the number of staff absences, he told the board that the number is stressing the school’s entire staff, with administrators having to fill in as substitutes.
Gangopadhyay said the school has never used outside substitutes in the past. But given the attendance numbers over the first months of this school year, Success will be starting a two-week trial run with Enriched Schools, which provides established schools with substitute teachers.
Asked by board members about the root cause of the teacher absences, Gangopadhyay said a majority have been teachers who were out sick for a day or two. But two other staff members in particular were out for extended periods that accounted for “a concentration of sick days,” Gangopadhyay said.
Board members pressed further about whether the absences were a reflection of morale. Board President Anderson Baker said that after having private conversations with Gangopadhyay, he did not get the sense that teachers did not want to come to work. But he didn’t expand on the point, saying he didn’t want to get into individual cases.
Gangopadhyay said the staff’s smaller size means that when one person takes a day off, someone else at the school is “in a bind.”
“Perhaps we have not reiterated that message,” he said.
Gangopadhyay said he would begin to include a report on the teacher absences in his monthly reports to the board.
In a brief presentation, the school’s auditors from CRI CPAs and Advisors presented the Board with an annual financial report free of findings. The audit earned the Recovery School District school an unqualified opinion.
The school’s leaders also touted the improvement in the recently released School Performance Scores, jumping from a 65.5 to a 79.8. Under the new system implemented by RSD, the school’s new score is good for a “C” letter grade from the state.
Gangopadhyay said the score also meant a marked improvement in its SPS ranking among RSD schools. Success Prep jumped from 35th out of 42 schools to ninth with its latest score, he said.
The board also discussed the future of the school’s building, which has been a frequent topic of discussion at meetings. The school continues to expand by one grade level per year, and is working with an unusual floor plan that separates classrooms by partitions instead of walls in its building at 2011 Bienville St.
Board members have raised the idea of relocating, but facilities committee chairman Shawn Préau said RSD administrators all but quashed that idea at a recent meeting. There are no buildings available that would suit Success’ needs, Préau said.
“It looks like we’re going to be in here for a while,” Préau said. “The potential for us getting another building is very, very low.”
The school leaders also were told that RSD is trying to phase out the use of modular units as a solution for classroom space issues.
With new facilities unlikely, Préau said his committee will work on a plan to reconfigure the current building so it will be able to house the school’s larger number of students going forward. Some of the solutions could include putting classroom space in an indoor play area, or reconfiguring partitions, Préau said.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 6:30 p.m. in the school’s library.