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Crescent City Schools management group discusses vision for merger and expansion

The boards of Harriet Tubman Charter School and Akili Academy of New Orleans came together Wednesday night to discuss the future vision of the charter management organization that will soon run them both, Crescent City Schools.

The organization, which took over Tubman last summer, received the go-ahead in March from the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to run Akili Academy starting this summer. The boards will merge in June, and Crescent City Schools’ Chief Executive Officer Kate Mehok will assume leadership of both schools.

The decision to merge the two boards was made shortly after Sean Gallagher, Akili Academy’s founder and former executive director, announced his departure.

Crescent City Schools begins running Akili on July 1.

At the meeting, Mehok laid out a five-year plan for the organization. Next year, only Tubman and Akili will be under the organization’s umbrella, but the year following, Crescent City plans to apply for a third charter. By 2015-2016, they’ll have applied  for a fourth.

Mehok emphasized her intent to keep the administrative office small, in order to funnel more resources to the schools.

“One of the reasons we aren’t a huge (charter management organization) is because the show is at the school,” she told board members.

While the organization hasn’t yet applied to charter a specific school, The Tubman building on Gen. Meyer is slated to undergo renovations, although the board isn’t sure when those renovations will take place, Mehok said. While Tubman waits for its building to be redone, there are some some soon-to-open spaces that it could occupy.  Alice Harte Charter School, housed in modulars on Gen. Meyer Avenue, is waiting for a new building, but once the move is made, the Gen. Meyer site could be up for grabs, Mehok said. The merger of O. Perry Walker and L.B. Landry high schools would also leave the Walker building available, she said. The Recovery School District will ultimately decide what school will inhabit those spaces, Mehok stressed. 

Note: The paragraph has been corrected to reflect that Crescent City’s intent is not to open a new charter at Harte or Walker. During the meeting, Mehok did say that Paul Habans Elementary would soon be an available option for charter management organizations. 

After outlining plans for additional schools, Mehok laid out the organization’s administrative structure. The principals at Akili and Tubman will answer to Mehok, but that doesn’t mean she’ll tell them what to do, Mehok said. Rather, she’ll work collaboratively to achieve outcomes the principals set for themselves.

Additionally, Julie Lause, Tubman’s principal and the management organization’s chief academic officer, will trade her CAO title for a co-founder title, but she’ll  remain a member of the executive team. The organization also will soon hire a new chief officer, Mehok said. The new chief will succeed Nick Walker, who is leaving June 15.

Mehok mentioned another three hires that the management organization plans to make. One, called a school principal fellow, will be trained by Mehok to lead one of the organization’s new schools. A director of human capital also will be hired to recruit and set appropriate compensation for staff, and to develop and oversee personnel policies.

Finally, the group wants to bring on a program associate, someone who can help Mehok manage the organization’s office.

The executive administrative staff would then total six.

Note: Executive has been deleted in favor of administrative, which includes both the executive team and employees of the central office.

Other meeting highlights included discussion of the board’s finances and pending approval of next year’s budget, slated for the June 20 board meeting.

Louisiana’s Local Government Budget Act requires the management group to make its budget available for public review at least 10 days before it is subjected to a public hearing. The date of the meeting and the availability of the document must be announced in the parish’s journal of record, The Times-Picayune.

Because Crescent City won’t officially begin overseeing Akili until July, the Akili board is responsible for approving its budget and advertising it properly, Mehok said.

Crescent City Schools board members in attendance at the meeting included Carolyn Chandler, JP Hymel, Agnieszka McPeak, Doug Harel, Julius Kimbrough, and Anna Burrell. Akili board members in attendance included Ronnie Evans, Bob Stefani, Tim Bryant, and John Hummel. Also in attendance: Peggy Wilson, Stephanie Bibbs, CEO Kate Mehok and Director of Development Alison Mehr.

The June 20 board meeting is at 6 p.m.

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