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KIPP rejects move to Orleans Parish School Board; strong reserves projected

The board that governs KIPP New Orleans unanimously voted Dec. 19 not to switch four eligible schools from the Recovery School District to Orleans Parish School Board oversight.

The vote was quick, with little to no discussion from board members. Parents KIPP talked to didn’t want to switch, director of advocacy Jonathan Bertsch said.

“A lot of the feedback, it was generally, they didn’t see the need to change,” Bertsch said.

KIPP’s eligible schools are KIPP Central City Academy, KIPP Believe College Prep, KIPP Central City Primary and KIPP Mcdonogh 15 School for the Creative Arts. KIPP was the last eligible board to decide; the unanimous decline means none of the city’s charters will be moving to local elected oversight.

With that decision made, the board moved to a discussion of finances and its newest school, KIPP East Community Primary, which will be opening this summer.

Financially, KIPP is close to achieving its goal of having an end-of-year surplus that’s about 10 percent of its expenses, board treasurer Stephen Rosenthal said. Their current projected surplus is $1.7 million. Add that to last year’s fund balance, and its about $3.7 million, or 9 percent of total expenses, for all of KIPP New Orleans schools.

Rosenthal called the surplus projection “tremendous.”

When talk turned to the organization’s new school, the new school’s leader, former KIPP Central City Academy assistant principal Jenny Carey, shared her vision with the board.

 Kids would come to KIPP Central City in the 5th grade, she said, and not know how to read. Starting this KIPP East will allow her to be “unbelievably passionate about being able to teach kids to read when they are 5, as opposed to in 5th grade,” she said.

The school will start with just more than a hundred kindergarteners, and it will ultimately feed into a middle school. The school’s long term building will be in New Orleans East, but right now, it’s starting at the Coghill modular campus, where KIPP McDonogh 15 Middle is located.

When planning for the school initially, Carey said, she thought that she’d have all the kids try blended learning and that would be the “silver bullet.” But, she realized: “The schools that do the common things, uncommonly well, are the ones that have the happy kids, the happy staff.”

The board also elected officers for the new year: Joe Giarrusso will be the president and Therese Badon will serve as vice president. Rosenthal will continue his position as board treasurer. And Florencia Polite will be the board’s secretary.

The board’s next meeting is Feb. 20 at 5:45 p.m., at KIPP Believe College Prep.

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