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Unexpected computer costs send Audubon Charter budget back to the drawing board

The board of Audubon Charter School will take another look at next year’s budget before finalizing and approving it during their June meeting.

That decision was reached during the board’s May meeting on Saturday, following a mandatory public hearing on the 2014-15 budget.

Discussion centered on $140,000 budgeted for network upgrades necessary to administer the PARCC test. PARCC, or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers testing, is compatible with Common Core standards.

Technology director Dion Weber informed the board that she would also need $120,000 over two years for new computers.

Grants worth $24,000 have been received for the project, Weber said, noting that she had previously requested at least $220,000 for the whole project.

Facilities manager Alisa Dupre added that half of the $140,000 and half of the $120,000 would be used next year, since the school would upgrade one campus at a time, starting on Milan Street.

Certified school accountant Ben Hicks said the proposed 2014-15 budget needed to better clarify how the upgrades were being funded before it could be submitted for state approval.

“I was not under the impression that there was anything missing from the budget,” Hicks said, adding that he needed to meet with Weber. “If we want to spend it in the coming year, it’s got to be in here.”

The Rev. Cornelius Tilton, chairman, stressed that the board needs written information about financing for such projects before budgets are drafted.

Earlier discussion of the technology costs had been speculative, Tilton said, adding “now we’re getting down to specificity.”

Hicks and Weber said they will meet to better clarify the budget before the next meeting.

In other news, an operations report showed a list of projects still needed for the school.

Audubon Charter will need to purchase storage containers for physical education equipment and custodial supplies, since the former Carrollton Courthouse campus had more storage than the Milan Street campus, Dupre said, adding that the Orleans Parish School Board had backed off an earlier promise to provide the containers.

The Carrollton campus has been put on the Orleans Parish School Board’s surplus-property list, she added. That means it could eventually be sold and that Audubon Charter needs to get its property out of the building.

The OPSB also won’t put down pavers around a new playground to a address a mud pit caused during construction. That will also cost the school, Dupre added.

Finally, the board voted to enter into agreement with Knowledge is Power Program to act as Audubon’s school food authority for the 2014-15 school year.

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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

    KIPP will act as Audubon Charter’s “school food authority” for the upcoming school year! What business is KIPP in anyway? (food, custodial…) What?

  • Ailuri

    As I understand it- the school food authority thing is a federal designation- not a business description. To get federal funds for low and reduced-price lunches, schools don’t get to make their own food or operate a cooking facility in their cafeteria unless they are designated a “school food authority” by the federal government. KIPP doesn’t make the food, actually- but because they are federally designated as an SFA, they can enter into contracts with caterers/food providers/etc to make lunches for schools they are also contracted with.

    According to the Federal Education Budget Project:

    ” School food authorities are independent, non-profit organizations responsible for providing meals for school lunch programs and determining student eligibility and enrollment. These authorities, which are approved and insured by the states they serve, often provide meals to multiple schools or districts.”

    Because it is expensive and time consuming to get designated as a School Food Authority, most independent charter schools contract out with someone who is already designated a SFA (it’s cheaper and more efficient than getting SFA designation for each specific school)
    KIPP went ahead and got the designation so they could supply their own schools with food (because they felt that the existing SFA didn’t provide healthy food options), then they offered to contract with other charter schools who need a SFA.
    As far as I know, the only two SFAs in the New Orleans area are Orleans Parish School Board and KIPP
    Basically, Audubon cannot just open a cafeteria of their own or directly contract with a restaurant or caterer or food service provider. To get federal funds, they need to go through an SFA, which either makes the food or contracts with the food provider for them.

  • nickelndime

    KIPP IS A SCHOOL FOOD AUTHORITY (SFA): Thanks, Ailuri for the excellent explanation of what a SFA is and what it does. AUDUBON is a Type 3 Conversion charter school which was authorized by the OPSB. The OPSB is a SFA. That KIPP is a federally designated SFA raises a lot of red flags for me personally. What will KIPP get federal money for next? Nonprofit is a misnomer. KIPP is not the only one. But it’s a billion dollar one. Ushered into the State of Louisiana by former Superintendent Paul Pastorek and BESE’s Leslie Jacobs, KIPP is doing a lot more than academics and looks like a greedy octopus to me. Besides that general comment, I think that the OPSB is doing a lousy job of monitoring its charter schools, and I can’t help but wonder what exactly is Deputy Padian doing for her 6-figure salary!?

  • edpolicy

    OPSB is an SFA. They historically use Sodexo, Aramark, or other large scale companies to provide food services. KIPP is also an SFA. They use Revolution Foods, also a national brand, but much smaller. Rev Foods focuses on healthy eatign and the quality, in my experience, is not even close. Audubon is doing the right thing in switching vendors. All schools get federal money to feed low income students, so there’s not a conspiracy here. Some use the local district as SFA, some become their own SFA, and some choose to contract with other SFA’s to handle the food program (as you can imagine it’s a paperwork heavy endeavor). Audubon is simply deciding to use a different SFA to contract for its food services. All school districts and charter schools (which are legally their own district for Type 5’s like KIPP) do lots more than academics – they make business decisions all the time. That doesn’t mean there’s a conspiracy, it simply means they’re doing their job.

  • nickelndime

    SFA: This is the first time I am hearing that the OPSB has historically used Sodexo, Aramark, or other large scale companies to provide food services for its schools, and I guess that would also apply to its direct-run, traditional schools, as we speak! Yes, surely the OPSB-authorized charters may or not use the OPSB as its School Food Authority, but it appears that some Charter Management Organizations (e.g., KIPP) are creating monopolies with federal funds. So, conspiracy is not exactly the word I would use to describe what is happening in the big picture of public education in this country, in this state, and particularly in this city. It is ironic that public money is being used by nonprofits to “privatize” public education!

  • Ailuri

    There isn’t really a monopoly- KIPP being a SFA actually took the monopoly away from OPSB (They were pretty much a monopoly before KIPP got designated as an SFA- now charter schools can pick between the two- they can go with OPSB or KIPP as their official SFA) There also isn’t anything stopping another school from becoming a SFA themselves (other than onerous federal paperwork and cost- which is a federal roadblock, not a local one)
    New Orleans College Prep (which runs 4 schools) serves as their own SFA (they use their SFA designation to contract with Liberty’s Kitchen for their food) – they don’t contract with other schools though, so other schools can’t opt to use them – they’ve opted to be a SFA for their own schools and no others for now. That may or may not change in the future (I know Liberty Kitchen is eager to get more school food contracts- if NOCP let other schools use their SFA designation, that would be a likely outcome- and it would give schools 3 options for finding a SFA without having to get the designation themselves)
    Some schools also operate their own cafeteria and don’t take federal funds at all for food (so they either pay out of their own operating funds for free/reduced lunch kids or don’t have a free/reduced lunch program, I guess?)- I think the International School of Louisiana still does this.

  • nickelndime

    SFA: KIPP, OPSB, NOCP… Which one doesn’t belong? One could say that the OPSB operated somewhat on the lines of a monopoly by acting as the School Food Authority for all of the Orleans Parish public schools before Katrina and before the State took control of failing schools. And, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan of a broken system, which is how I would describe the OPSB, however, I do believe I see the makings of another type of monopoly in which one monster is being devoured by another monster, and education is only one of the by-products, not the primary focus. NOCP has its roots in New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO). Ben Kleban served founder, Sarah Usdin, and it was Ben ‘s undying reverence of Sarah Usdin that put him where he needed to be to “write the charter” for NOCP and get Pastorek’s nod of approval. All of these guys are more intertwined than is apparent. Federal paperwork moves through the channels very quickly for the “right” people and their nonprofits. Look up the DUN$ numbers and the federal contracts that abound. They make the OPSB look like “babies.” And thanks again, Ailuri, you bring a lot of info to the table, and the public really needs to be more aware and more vigilant.