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Board misses out on big grant and one school takeover, but it may still get other campuses

The school board leading the International School of Louisiana charter campus learned recently that it did not win a substantial grant it sought to help build the organization’s capacity, and that it was turned down in its bid to take over a failing school in New Orleans.

Still, a state team recommended to Jefferson and Orleans parish officials that the local school boards grant the ISL board permission to open two schools and take over a third.

The sought-after grant would have helped ISL build its capacity to operate several schools.

“The grant was to go to schools that are reform minded,” board President Andrew Yon said at the Nov. 30 meeting. “It was to be designated specifically for non-classroom spending, to foster the growth of charter-management organizations. With that money we were going to hire five or six new people at the CMO level, so that when we open a new school or two we’re not stretched.”

Correction: The story previously said the board sought nearly $1 million. The amount of the grant wasn’t specified, but was valued by the board at likely between $800,000 and $1 million.

The board asked for nearly $1 million money from the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation, or i3, grant program. The five-year, $28 million grant is administered and doled out locally by the Recovery School District and the nonproft group New Schools for New Orleans.

Head of Schools Sean Wilson also told the board that the state Education Department is recommending denial of its application to take over a failing public school in New Orleans, though it may soon open one and take over another in Jefferson Parish. Also possible is the chance to start a new charter in New Orleans, rather than taking over an existing school.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education this week is expected to act on one of the Education Department’s recommendations.

“RSD had approximately six schools for which they were looking for a charter operator,” Yon said. “Rather than an immersion school like ISL, we proposed to them a standard school – called Global Academy of Louisiana – with a regular English curriculum plus one hour each day of a foreign language. Unfortunately, they were very skeptical that our model could be applied at a traditional New Orleans public school.

The Education Department works with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers in vetting such applications.

The evaluation team “thought were had an interesting idea, but they weren’t confident that our previous experience made us qualified” to turn around a failing school, Yon said.

Correction: Only one of three pending applications was recommended by the evaluation team, not two as initially reported.

However, ISL still has three other applications in play. The evaluation team recommended ISL be awarded a Type 1 charter in Jefferson Parish, which would let the board start a new school, similar to ISL. Another approved application is for a Type 3 school, or takeover of an existing school in Jefferson Parish. Both Type 1 and Type 3 authorizations are handled by local boards, not the state school board. The Jefferson Parish School Board is expected to decide on the requests Wednesday at a 4 p.m. meeting at Bonnabel Magnet Academy High School in Kenner.

The ISL board also has an application pending with the Orleans Parish School Board to start a new charter, which would also be a Type 1 campus.

In other news, ISL was the only school in the city nominated as one of the “Top 50 Places to Work in New Orleans” by CityBusiness. The winners will be decided Friday.

ISL is also working closely with the state of Louisiana on the new Common Core state standard, a national effort to create consistency and continuity in America’s schools.

Board members present at the meeting along with Yon were Vice President Matthew Amoss, secretary Barbara Griffin, and board members Duane Drucker, Mike Lappa, John Wettermark, David Napoleon and Dominique Wilson. Absent were treasurer Charles Hadey and board member Stephanie Davis. Several parents and members of ISL’s administration were in the audience, along with new board member David Bozzo, who was voted in at this meeting.

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