Einstein Charter officials are planning to put pressure on both the Orleans Parish School Board and the Recovery School District as a to-do list of updates for the school’s two campuses grows by the day.
At the behest of the RSD, staff for the eastern New Orleans school applied for a grant last fall to take over Intercultural Charter School, which became Einstein Extension. Now, Einstein CEO Shawn Toranto must navigate two districts – Einstein is authorized by the OPSB, and Intercultural was overseen by the RSD.
Mentioning one of a series of complaints, Toranto said during a monthly board of directors meeting Tuesday that modular classrooms had yet to be sent to the school’s main campus, even though they were promised months ago.
“I called OPSB and asked, ‘Where are they?’” Toranto said. “I really didn’t get an answer.”
The modulars would be used during state testing, when rules restrict the number of students who can gather to take the test at one time. They would also be used for physical education classes held during inclement weather.
In response, board president Ryan Bennett urged other board members to contact the OPSB to “push on the issue, because it’s been multiple conversations.”
“It’s been, like, four or five months,” Bennett said.
The modulars weren’t Toranto’s only complaint. She also said that Einstein Extension had yet to receive an official mold report from the RSD, and that the school – located on the old Intercultural Charter School campus — is lacking kitchen renovations that should have been completed after Hurricane Katrina.
Toranto went on to say that the refrigeration frequently shuts down, and that the kitchen’s steamer doesn’t work, leaving her with costly food waste and her food manager with a list of challenges to overcome in order to get lunches on the table everyday.
“We have spent an exorbitant amount of money,” Toranto fumed. “We need our kitchen.”
Bennett responded that the needed repairs really amount to a reallocation of funds in the city’s Master Plan – a point that Toranto disagreed with. He also said that the kitchen might be on the short list of RSD priorities.
“The challenge with the kitchen is that, while our kitchen actually needs a lot of improvement, there are kitchens across the schools in the city that are even in more deplorable conditions,” Bennett said. “I’m not excusing it at all, but I think that’s the challenge.”
Toranto also brought up water-fountain issues and problems with the bathrooms. The school has one functioning water fountain, she said, and that fountain has low water pressure. Plus, she added, the bathroom stalls need replacing.
“Parents have called to complain,” she said.
The school’s business office manager, Doug Guidry, also piped up.
“Anything over five thousand dollars, that’s their responsibility,” Guidry said, referring to the RSD’s financial responsibilities in facilities updates. “That’s on them.”
Ultimately, Bennett decided to appoint a board committee to oversee conversations with the two school districts about these repairs.
Toranto also said that she was looking for an additional English as Second Language teacher for Einstein Extension, and that she wanted another special education teacher to float between the two campuses.
There are about 352 ESL students, plus prekindergarten students, she added.
“Special education and ESL departments are the two most important departments in school, because these are the ones that personally assists these children and help them to succeed,” Toranto said.
In other news, Kathy Litchfield resigned from Einstein’s board, bringing it down to seven members.*
Board members Ryan Bennett, Laurin Jacobsen, Lauren Pigeon and Zachary Wool were present. The meeting lasted for about an hour and fifteen minutes.
*Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Einstein’s board had only six members after Litchfield’s resignation. The board has seven members. (Oct. 3, 2013)