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Jacobs lobbies Ben Franklin board about merits of OneApp system

Board members for Benjamin Franklin High School don’t appear to be racing to join OneApp, the new centralized student application system that allows parents to apply to multiple charter schools by filling out one form.

Leslie Jacobs, founder of Educate Now! and a former member of the Orleans Parish School Board and state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, addressed Franklin’s board during its Jan. 18 meeting, lobbying on behalf of the new application program.

Jacobs described OneApp as a city-wide form designed to function similar to a medical school match process.

“There were absolutely glitches,” Jacobs said, describing it’s phase-in so far. She said officials are working with parents to help them better use the system.

In the 2013-14 school year, Type 2 charters — those that operate directly under the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education — will begin using OneApp, including the military academies, Jacobs said.

Jacobs said that every public school in New Orleans is now in One App except for about 10 Orleans Parish School Board charters, including Franklin.

Jacobs told board members it’s in the schools’ interests to join OneApp. If Franklin joined OneApp in time for the 2014-15 school year, she said, the school could add any additional admissions requirements, from touring the school to writing an essay.

“I think as we marry this, you would have more kids applying to Franklin,” Jacobs said.

But for Franklin, one of the state’s highest-achieving public schools, attracting applicants doesn’t appear to be much of an issue.

Lynn Jenkins, Franklin’s director of admissions, told the board that in the course of her recruiting work, she meets with around 2,000 families every year. She said that on the most recent testing date, the line of parents and students stretched down the hallway until applications ended at 5:30 p.m. Jenkins noted that Benjamin Franklin is one of the most academically sought after high schools, and discussed the school’s outreach for recruiting new students.

“We offer workshops to every Recovery School District school, I visit schools, there are field trips here,” said Jenkins. Benjamin Franklin expects 275 students, up from 263 this year in a steadily increasing annual attendance. “Parents want real information. They want safe, quiet and clean. When they walk into Ben Franklin, that’s what they see and feel. They can’t tell that by looking on a list.”

The board did not make a decision on whether or not to join OneApp for the 2014-15 school year.

Jacobs said that there’s time to continue to have the conversation and further address board and parents’ questions about OneApp. “The advantage is being at the table to help design it,” she said.

In other business, Principal Dr. Timothy Rusnak announced that Director of Accounting Allison Bent received the new title Chief Financial Officer in thanks for her performance. She had stepped out of the room and returned to applause, an announcement of the new job description and the caveat that the title did not come with a raise.

The meeting, which lasted an hour and a half, was also attended by Board President Duris Holmes and board members Mark Mayer, Patricia Adams, Gary Ostoske, Susan Weeks, Joe Horton, John Williams, Joseph Cao and Les Alexander.

Disclosure: The Lens’ donors and partners may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. Leslie Jacobs is affiliated with Friends of Quality Reporting, which is involved in raising money to benefit The Lens.

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