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NOCP leaders prepare to assume control of Crocker

Four weeks since the Recovery School District formally announced its plan to put New Orleans College Prep’s management team in charge of the struggling Crocker Arts & Technology School, leaders at New Orleans College Prep are making arrangements to expand.

Ben Kleban, founder and director of New Orleans College Prep, said during the board’s Jan. 8 meeting that Crocker will continue to share a building with Encore Academy on Marengo Street in the 2013-14 school year.

Encore will occupy the second floor of the Crocker building, while Crocker College Prep will reside on the 1st and third floors. “That makes sense, right,” joked chair Kenneth Polite.

Kleban touted the advantages of sharing the space. “This allows us to fill the building economically, without bearing all the operating costs on our own.”

He said that all current Crocker students are guaranteed a spot at Crocker College Prep.

Kleban said the pre-K through 5th grade school could be used to “…develop a strong feeder pattern to our middle schools.” However, he stressed that this would be a gradual process.

Amanda Aiken, current assistant principal at Sylvanie Williams College Prep, will be appointed principal of the new school, he said.

“This will be the first year that we’re going to be offering pre-K, to Murray’s excitement,” Kleban said.

Murray Pitts, the board’s only member with professional teaching experience, had encouraged the board to explore setting up a pre-kindergarten program at previous meetings. However, the irregularity of pre-kindergarten funding in Louisiana makes paying for such programs difficult and complex.

Kleban said the board would seek to partner with a center that already exists. “That way, we can benefit from that center’s management and compliance.”

The school will run two pre-kindergarten classes of 20 students each, Kleban said..

The board then discussed the idea of nominating members of Crocker’s board to join New Orleans College Prep’s board of directors. Members decided that the governance committee will make its recommendations, to be voted on at February’s board meeting.

Also during last week’s meeting, Kleban gave board members an academic update on the middle school’s performance under its new principal, Noell Lugay.

College Prep, like many area charters, uses Achievement Network tests designed to approximate the scores students will receive on state exams.

“We have seen a pretty good correlation that students who do better on A-Net do better on the iLEAP,” Kleban said.

He said that the inclusion of material from the new federal Common Core Standards was making the tests more difficult. “The tests are getting harder. At the same time, the middle school out-performed last year by 18 percent in math, and 8 percent in English.”

Present at the meeting were Chair Kenneth Polite, Secretary Murray Pitts, Julie Walker, Ruth Kullman, Jim Raby, director Ben Kleban, Chief Operating Officer Kristen Lozada Morgan, and director of development Geneva Longlois-Marney. Absent were member Peter Harding and vice chair Monica Edwards.

The meeting concluded at 6:12 p.m.

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