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Firing of management company puts school's future in jeopardy; decision expected by January

Intercultural Charter School should learn within two months whether the state school board will allow it to continue operating with the current board, whether the state will take it over or whether it will close, the board learned recently.

Board member Alvaro Alcazar explained at the Nov. 17 board meeting that because the board decided to end its contract with EdisonLearning Inc. to run the school, the state school board wants an outline of how the board plans to manage the school.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education wants the new educational plan to explain what actions are being taken to enhance the school’s performance and student achievement.

Alcazar said that a 47-page document has been created and will be submitted soon. He said that by the end of December or January, the school will know if it will be closed or not. Board members said that they believe the school will remain functioning and they are working hard to maintain its operation.

Alcazar said that the board has hired a lawyer and is suing Edison, claiming the company made false promises. He said the schoolwill not pay the debt that is owned to the company. Alcazar said that Edison always prepared a budget that was very mysterious.

Board member Larry Baudoin said a new budget was created, and that by refusing to pay Edison, the school’s financial situation is stable. Baudoin explained that the new budget was created for a student enrollment of 412, and 42 staff members.
In other business, the board interviewed a security company to provide services at the school.
New Orleans Private Patrol was represented by Vivian Thompson. She said that the security company is the largest in the New Orleans region and provides services to many schools in the area.

Board member Ed Blouin asked if the guards always carry guns. Thompson said that the in-school officers do not. Armed officers are called in emergency cases, as determined by the school officials and guards. Guns can only be used when lives are endangered, Thompson said, and the guard on duty is responsible for avoiding the use of weapons and unnecessary force.

The unarmed guards have the authority to arrest and restrain on private property. The security company has a good relationship with New Orleans Police Department, Thompson said, and necessary cases are handed over to the police.

Alcazar asked if the company works for security or for discipline. Thompson replied that it depends on whether the school wants the company to engage with disciplinary problems. All teachers would have radios and could quickly call guards if needed.

Board chair Cam-Thanh Tran made a motion that a committee be formed to oversee the costs and evaluating the company’s services, a move that was approved by the board.

Principal Dayphne Burnett said that the school is now operating with benchmark testing. She explained that the system is a database program that charters have nationally adapted to determine the educational skills of each grade level. The school will use the benchmark system in which they will study different grade levels and the classes’ academic average. Teachers also will compare classes with higher achievement and evaluate the teaching method applied so it can be replicated.

The September and October benchmark tests demonstrated low skills in most grade levels.

“We need 75 percent of our kids to be successful in the benchmark testing,” Burnett said. “At the end of each month, we will review the data and form a plan for the next month.”

Board member Jerome Jordan requested that Burnett show each month’s progress and target for educational improvement.

The board emphasized that group planning and professional-development trainings are necessary for the system’s success.

The meeting began at 6 p.m. and adjourned at 8:50 p.m. Board members present were  Tran,  Jordan, Alcazar, Blouin, Baudoin, Donovan DiLorenzo, and Kathleen Carlin. Baudoin was appointed to the board at the beginning of the meeting. Board members absent where: Tap Bui, Claudia Duque, Francis J. Cascio and Vong Nguyen.

There was an audience of 22, including a reporter from The Lens.

The next board meeting will be Thursday Dec. 15 at 6 p.m.

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