Crescent Leadership Academy ended last month with a budget surplus in excess of $253,000, according to a financial report at the April board meeting.

Chief financial officer C.J. Bower said the surplus was “phenomenal,” allowing money to be held in reserve just two months after he projected an annual deficit of $220,000.

In February, Bower saw red ink ahead based on the increased cost of educating students with severe behavior problems, many of them expelled from traditional schools. By March, Bower saw the budget gap shrinking, thanks to an influx of per-pupil expulsion funding from the past two years.

The situation continued to improve. “The bottom line this month will make up the deficit and put us in reserve of where we need to be this year, so I’m feeling pretty good about the financials right now,” Bower said.

A monthly financial statement shows total revenue of $477,607, compared against a budget of  $230,996. An influx of $159,000 in revenue from local per-pupil funding from the prior year contributed to the surplus.

Personnel expenses and the cost of direct student services came in lower than budgeted, according to the academy’s financial documents.

In other business, education director Tracy Bennett-Joseph said the school will hire an off-duty police officer to be on campus during school hours for the 2014-15 school year.

Right now, the school pays for private security; the officer would replace that service, Bennett-Joseph added.

Bennett-Joseph also announced receipt of a $5,000 grant to implement PBIS, or Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports, an alternative approach to school discipline. The money will be used to train staff for the program, she said.

Invited to address the meeting, attorney Susanne Jernigan, a former charter school board member trained by New Schools for New Orleans, urged the board to retain a lawyer on at least a part-time basis.

Having a lawyer is important for dealing with contracts, leases and other issues that might come up with a new charter organization, Jernigan said: “It is prudent, I believe, for you to have some sort of counsel to look at things like that to represent the board, because at the end of the day the buck stops with you.”

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...