Addition of sixth grade and efforts to recruit at-risk students dominate Lycée board meeting

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How to sequence the addition of a sixth grade and the need to recruit at-risk students were hot topics as the board of Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans met Tuesday evening, May 13, to review a series of committee updates.

Since no votes were taken, parents and community members present were not invited to comment.

Member Mary Jacobs Jones informed the board that the organization’s current charter calls for adding both fifth and sixth grades in the 2015-16 school year. This contradicted the board’s announcement at last month’s meeting that the plan was to add a grade a year as current third graders advance.

Jones outlined three possible solutions:

  • Adding grades five and six in 2015-16, as called for in the school’s current charter
  • Revising the charter and adding grades one year at a time
  • Adding grades 6 and 7 in 2016-17

Staffing projections call for adding three sixth-grade teachers. Member Erin Greenwald pointed out that the projections, based on the French lycée system, did not include a dedicated science teacher, a possible fourth addition to the staff.

Jones said that adding two middle-school grades in the same year would make for economies of scale, given the increased per-pupil funding that would become available due to larger enrollment. The money would offset the cost of hiring an additional teacher. She also noted that the school does not currently have a building or financial plan for inaugurating a sixth grade in August 2015.

Member Ann Meese said the school should seek public input in making the decision. Parents on both sides of the issue chose a recent facilities committee meeting to air their views on the subject.

In his academic update, CEO Keith Bartlett said there had been a “speed bump” in the organization’s plan to center its planned French Quarter curriculum in the Cabildo, a Jackson Square state museum. The museum is slated for major renovations, making the classroom unavailable for the upcoming school year. Nonetheless, the school plans to continue the six-week program, which will teach students about the history and French roots of the historic French Quarter.

Bartlett updated the board on the school’s progress toward its goal of an enrollment that is 67 percent “at-risk” youth, as required of public charter schools. Having opened an additional pre-K class of 20 spaces, the school has received 18 applications from at-risk children, but it’s uncertain how many of them will enroll, he said.

“A school like this, without any kind of recruiting necessary, attracts families of means,” he said. “We have to sell it to at-risk families.”

Members asked if they could contact parents who expressed interest in the school on their OneApp forms but didn’t enroll their children. New director of development Sarah Stickney said she would ask OneApp officials about the ethics of using parent contact info to explore why they decided against Lycée Français.

Director of finance and operations Karianne Heins reported briefly on finances. She said the organization expects a net surplus over $300,000 for the current year; member Michael Williams said it may be closer to $370,000 and praised Heins for her conservative estimates.

Heins suggested the organization adopt a cash reserve policy and begin setting aside funds to purchase a new school.

The public budget hearing is set for Thursday, June 19, the same day as the monthly board meeting. The budget will be available for public review at the school and on the organization’s website starting June 9. The board will then approve its projected budget on July 14.

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