Einstein Group could take over Intercultural Charter School

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The board of directors that oversees the Einstein Charter School voted to pursue a grant to fund the takeover of a failing school, a move apparently targeted at nearby Intercultural Charter School.

The Recovery School District has “actively” asked Einstein Group Inc., which runs a pre-K through eighth grade school in eastern New Orleans, to manage an additional school, principal Shawn Toranto said at the board’s meeting Tuesday night. Board president Ryan Bennett said he and member Laurin Jacobsen had been involved in talks with the Recovery School District.

Board members didn’t name Intercultural Charter School in their discussions, but they said the failing school was an elementary school in eastern New Orleans, and board member Chuck Gasho cautioned that taking over the school would put Einstein near Sarah Reed High School.

Intercultural Charter School sits next to Sarah Reed, and its charter is up for renewal this year. Although its school performance score has risen over the last three years, it’s now rated a D. Scores for the 2011-2012 school year are expected to be released next week. The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will decide Dec. 5 which charters it will renew, and those scores weigh heavily in those decisions.

However, Intercultural Charter School got passing grades from the state for the 2008-2009 and the 2009-2010 school years. Its score of 71.7 for the 2010-2011 school year was a D.

Leaders at Intercultural Charter School said they didn’t know anything about a possible takeover until The Lens contacted them Thursday. “We are anticipating getting a passing score and applying to renew our charter,” said Kathleen Carlin, secretary of Intercultural’s board of directors.

New Schools for New Orleans is administering the federal grants, called i3 grants, to enable the takeover of failing schools. Einstein’s board voted to spend up to $4,500 to hire a grant writer to pursue it. The deadline to apply is Nov. 5.

Asked about the board’s discussion, RSD spokesman Dana Peterson said the agency has dealt with Einstein the way it has with any school looking to expand. “Many organizations have approached the RSD about expansion,” he said, “and we have directed a number of them towards the i3 process because the i3 process is intended to help schools plan and evaluate on their plans for expansion and growth.”

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