Board backs online tutoring

ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana Parish School Board approved a one-year contract Tuesday with a company that provides online tutoring and other services designed to keep students from dropping out of school.

Superintendent Hollis Milton and Secondary Education Supervisor Al Lemoine said the state Minimum Foundation Program will fund the courses at no cost to the parish or students.

The contract is with The American Academy LLC, doing business as NoDropouts, Lemoine said.

The instruction will be provided through laptop computers using Verizon data plans, Lemoine said. The instruction and interaction with mentors and tutors is available 24 hours a day, which will be useful for students who have jobs, he added.

The courses are offered to students 17 to 21 years old, including those who dropped out of high school but were close to graduating. The program aims to give students an extra opportunity to earn a traditional high school diploma.

The state accountability program is placing emphasis on high school graduation rates.

Other topics before the School Board included:

ACT EFFORT: The board voted to spend an estimated $2,500 to $3,000 to administer the ACT assessment to all seniors this year, including those who took the standardized test as juniors.

Information Systems Analyst Steve Comfort said the ACT, which will figure into high school performance scores this year, will be administered, at no cost to the parish, to all juniors and those seniors who did not take it as juniors.

Comfort said the district wants to pay the difference to have all seniors take the test, in the hope that some students will get a higher composite score on the second try. A school will not receive points for ACT composite scores of 17 or below.

AUDIT REPORT: Mike Schexnayder, of the accounting firm Postlethwaite & Netterville, delivered draft copies of the audit report for the fiscal year that ended June 30, finding that the school system operated in compliance with all state and federal laws and its own policies and procedures.

The general fund had revenues of $24,404,093 and expenses of $24,121,244, Schexnayder said, but the use of general fund revenues in other areas left the district with deficit spending of $57,000 and reduced the general fund balance to $2.6 million.

The balance is over the 10 percent of annual operating expenses that school districts in good financial shape generally have.

“It’s good, but it’s at the bottom end of being good,” Schexnayder said.

Finance Director Helen “Ruthie” Davis said the unqualified opinion expressed in the audit continues a string of such good audits going back to the 1985-86 school year.

“That’s an awesome record, and it doesn’t come easy,” Davis said, citing the work of administrators and finance employees in monitoring spending.