International High School budget anticipates rise in services for special-ed students

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Balancing a $5.2 million budget for the 2014-15 school year depends on the International High School of New Orleans attracting an enrollment of 500 students, up from 417 in the year just ended.

Based on the budget proposal, the school will collect about $4.57 million from the state’s Minimum Foundation Program to operate the school. As a result of a 2.75 percent increase in MFP funding approved in the recent state legislative session, the school could receive another $53,000 once the new state budget takes effect.

More new revenue will come from the Bard Early College Program, which uses space in the IHS building. For the first time, Bard will pay IHS $20,000 in rent.

While 500 is the number of students built into budget projections, interim head of school Nan Ryan said the enrollment will remain fluid for a while. Problems with the OneApp process left some parents of IHS students thinking they had to re-apply, resulting in skewed data.

“The data is dirty, and they’re still trying to clean up that data,” Ryan said.

Whatever the final enrollment, school officials expect the number of special-education students to double or triple from the 50 on hand in the past year, Ryan said.

The budget calls for hiring four additional special-ed teachers, at an increased cost of about $130,000, and inaugurating a self-contained classroom for special education, Ryan said.

“We have an obligation and responsibility to take care of our children who want to come,” board treasurer Harry Blumenthal said.

To assist students who are struggling behaviorally or academically, IHS has added a so-called response-to-intervention counselor. The counselor will develop a plan for improvement and work with teachers on implementation. That adds an extra layer of intervention before a student is officially referred for special education.

“The whole goal is to prevent students from being diagnosed with special needs when in fact it is a gap in education or a miseducation,” Ryan said.

Addition of a second assistant head of school will increase administrative costs by $83,000. The finance staff also has new members, increasing that budget line by $50,000. As incoming head of school, Sean Wilson will collect a $150,000 annual salary. Last year the top job was pegged at $112,500.

Higher costs for staff will be offset by reductions in maintenance expenditures, if budget projections hold true. Termite damage and an electrical problem drove last year’s maintenance costs $97,000 over budget for a total of $205,000. The proposed 2014-15 budget calls for $100,000 to be spent on maintenance.

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