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Board wins charter to take over troubled Cohen High; NOCP performance score back on track

There was good news this month for the board of directors of New Orleans College Preparatory Academies. State education officials have extended the original charter for three years and granted them another to take over Walter L. Cohen High School.

“BESE approved our three-year renewal, and approved our charter for Cohen,” executive director Ben Kleban said. Kleban went on to discuss re-branding Cohen in a way that unites the schools but keeps their identities separate.  A possible new name might be “Walter L. Cohen College Preparatory High School,” Kleban said.

He said a further goal will be to separate performance data, which currently is widely divergent. New Orleans College Prep’s school performance score is a promising 67.6, while Cohen, currently an unchartered school run directly by the Recovery School District, has been languishing at 28.2.

Further good news came in the form of new testing data.  The Board had seen middle-school math scores fall in the second quarter, from 40 to 34, in exams designed to approximate state evaluations. Kleban then ordered an interim assessment of middle-school math, which improved to 65.  No mention was made of any interim efforts to boost problematic elementary school scores in science and social studies.

NOCP’s overall performance score is back on track to meet its targets, Kleban said. The goal is 74 in the third quarter, and 89 in the fourth, with tests scheduled in mid-March.

“We’re hopeful that we will at least be at 74 or higher,” Kleban said, “but I just wanted to give you some indication that we’re headed in the right direction.”

Director of Special Projects, Erin Weldon, provided a fundraising update. The school has received $163,623 in donations toward a goal of $250,000 for the year.  Board members contributed $13,000.  “Thank you for making our job easier,” board member Murray Pitts said.

Highlighting efforts to attract six- and seven-figure gifts and grants, Weldon mentioned that NOCP has teamed with Liberty House, a Central City pre-school, in applying for a $3,300,000 grant for birth-12th grade literacy.

Members present at the meeting in addition to Pitts included Kenneth Polite, Rick Conway, Jim Raby, and Monica Edwards. Peter Harding, Ruth Kullman, and Hal Brown were absent.

Kleban and Weldon were joined by fellow staffers Kristen Lozada, the chief operating officer, as well as human resources director Ryan Frailich and director of academic performance Shawn Datchuk.

The board discussed rescheduling future meetings on the first Tuesday of the month, with the next scheduled for Feb. 7.  The board then moved into an executive session to discuss the competence of a staff member, and adjourned the hour-long meeting immediately afterwards, at 6:35 p.m.

Correction: Ryan Frailich is directory of human resources for New Orleans College Preparatory Academies. An earlier version of this story misstated his first name.

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