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Einstein opts for OneApp, fine-tunes plan for takeover of Intercultural Charter

Einstein Charter School’s board of directors met Tuesday night to proceed with plans to take over operation of Intercultural Charter School.

Over the weekend, Einstein requested charter amendments to its contract with the Orleans Parish School Board. The changes, which would give Einstein a second campus at 5316 Michoud Boulevard, Intercultural’s current campus, and an authorized maximum enrollment of 500 students at that campus, were approved by the Orleans Parish School Board on Monday.

“We are humbled by the opportunity and responsibility to provide students of New Orleans with the education and life opportunities they deserve,” board president Ryan Bennett wrote on Wednesday in an email to The Lens.

The already arduous takeover process is complicated by the fact that Einstein and Intercultural are overseen by two different authorizers—the Orleans Parish School Board for Einstein and the Recovery School District for Intercultural.

Moreover, the two schools have different application processes.

Principal Shawn Toranto polled board members Tuesday night for their opinions on participating in the Recovery School District’s centralized enrollment system, called OneApp. She also asked whether they would approve use of an “intent to return” form as an alternative or supplement to OneApp. The board had cautioned over using the OneApp system out of concern that it might take longer to get a firm enrollment projection from the Recovery School District than if the school is directly in charge of applications.

Member Laurin Jacobsen pointed out a possible source of confusion if parents filling out two forms indicated on one that they would remain at Intercultural while simultaneously requesting a change of schools on the OneApp form. Member Lauren Pigeon recommended using just one form, for simplicity’s sake.

Toranto opted to go with OneApp. On a single form, student families will be able to indicate their plan to remain in their current school or, if they choose to leave, can list other schools in order of preference.

Toranto will attend a Thursday night parent meeting at Intercultural to explain the process. She said Einstein currently has 490 students enrolled for next year at its Cannes Street campus.

New Schools for New Orleans, the organization administering the federal i3 grant that finances the Intercultural takeover, wanted a commitment from the board to provide transportation for all current Intercultural students.

The board approved a motion to, at minimum, provide transportation for current students at ICS. Toranto said transportation would ideally be provided for all students, on both campuses, but she said budgeting would be the limiting factor.  She also noted that budgeting is difficult without the addresses of all returning students.

“I want to make sure it is effective and cost-effective,” she said regarding transportation.

A letter indicating the board decision to guarantee transportation will be sent to NSNO today and Einstein would likely be signing the i3 grant with NSNO within the week, Toranto said.

“We look forward to working closely with the families of the current school to ensure a smooth transition into the next year as we begin operating Einstein 2 at the temporary site on Michoud Blvd.,” Bennett told The Lens via email.

The board adopted a new meeting schedule, including a timeline for committee meetings.  The board currently has three committees: academic excellence, governance and finance, and community outreach.

Members elected Kathy Litchfield as board secretary and added a new member, Donnica Conway.  Conway previously served as a board member of the Capital One New Beginnings Charter School Network.  She said she resigned from that board last week.

“I was concerned and confused with the direction the board was going,” Conway said when asked about her resignation from the New Beginnings board.

Members Ryan Bennett, Kathy Litchfield, Laurin Jacobsen, Lauren Pigeon, Emily Danielson and Donnica Conway were present.  The meeting began at 6:15 p.m. and adjourned at 7:35 p.m.

The board will meet again at the school on Feb. 5 at 6 p.m.

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