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Interim CEO and academic officer named – to mixed response; enrollment rises

Algiers Charter Schools Association’s board has approved Stuart Gay, the association’s chief financial officer, to serve as interim chief executive officer of the charter management organization, succeeding Andrea Thomas-Reynolds who did not seek to renew her contract.

The board’s action, at its May 23 monthly meeting, was greeted with applause from the audience. The crowd appeared less supportive of the decision to approve a $16,000 contract with Amir Raza, of the RAZA Consulting Group, to serve as interim chief academic officer.

RAZA Consulting has monitored ACSA schools and provided feedback on performance and test scores in the past. Jamar McKneely, principal of Alice M. Harte Charter School and Wylene Sorapuru, principal of William J. Fischer Accelerated Academy, voiced concern about continued turnovers and a lack of internal communication within the association.

“I know what transitions do to schools. Let’s keep going with what we have in place. I know we have capable people in place. We need some stability,” Sorapuru said.

Several other staff members spoke up, claiming that RAZA has not delivered in the past.

Dee Fuchs, the board’s vice president, said the contract would be temporary. “You can view Dr. Reynolds’s departure as another change in a year that has already been challenging or it can be an opportunity. We need you guys to trust us… This is only for three months,” she said.

Fuch’s call for trust comes at the end of a school year that has been frustrating for many staff members. Last fall, the board announced cancellation of state retirement benefits for staff at some of its schools and its replacement with a 403(b) program. In April, the state attorney general released an opinion that charter schools cannot opt out of the state program.

In other business, the financial committee reported that they will begin to use the projected enrollment numbers from the OneApp process to budget for next year. Previously, the board has been using the 2011-2012 enrollment numbers to provide a conservative basis for next year’s budget. This year, ACSA enrolled around 5,300 students. Preliminary OneApp numbers show 2012-2013 enrollment at 5,652 students. State funding is allocated on a per-student basis.

The board also approved four new members who will begin service at the June meeting:  Stephanie Bridges, Colin Brooks, James Henderson, and D’Juan Hernandez.

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