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Initial success of Einstein’s charter expansion is tied to student enrollment, leaders say

Einstein’s board of directors continue to keep a close eye on enrollment numbers at the school’s expansion site.

Einstein Group, Inc., which oversees Einstein Elementary in eastern New Orleans, is growing into a charter management organization with the help of a $1 million federal grant. The school recently received the funding to takeover a failing Recovery School District school.

At the behest of the Recovery School District, Einstein staff applied for the grant last fall with Intercultural Charter School named in the grant. Intercultural is an F-rated school, while Einstein received a C in the state’s rating system.

Now as Principal Shawn Toranto is working to enroll students in the new school, she must navigate between two different districts. Einstein is authorized by the Orleans Parish School Board while Intercultural is overseen by the RSD, each with its own student enrollment system.

Intercultural currently has about 425 students. According to budget projections, Toranto needs to enroll at least 300 students to be financially viable at Einstein 2, but she’s hoping to serve more, up to 500 if possible.

“Basically we need 305 students to break even,” said board president Ryan Bennett.

Toranto said she has received about 130 OneApp referrals for Einstein 2 so far. However, the first deadline for the OneApp, the RSD’s unified enrollment system, isn’t until Friday. OneApp allows parents to apply to multiple charter schools using one application.

Toranto said she has also received applications through the school’s internal application process. She declined to specify how many, as she thought there were likely duplicates from the OneApp submissions.

Business Manager Doug Guidry said budgets for the two schools will be more accurate once per pupil funding is finalized. He said he expects to hear that number from the OPSB on March 29. Guidry has to wait on OPSB because per pupil funding is impacted by local districts.

“We don’t know what OPSB is going to tell us,” Guidry said.

A large piece of the budget will go toward transportation. Transportation costs are so high, the $1 million takeover grant also came with $800,000 in additional funding earmarked for busing.

The additional funding is specifically for providing busing to current Intercultural students for the next two school years, $400,000 per year. Einstein does not currently provide busing, and will only provide busing at the expansion site next year.

Delving into busing plans has been difficult without final enrollment numbers, said Toranto.  Her latest estimates, based on Intercultural’s current enrollment, put one year of busing at about $600,000. That estimate is based on sharing services through OPSB.

With estimates running over $400,000 for one year of busing, the transportation line item will no doubt impact the school’s budget.

“It’s a $200,000 hit,” said Guidry.

In the end, Toranto said, busing costs will depend on enrollment.

Staffing Einstein 2 also hinges on enrollment. Toranto said she is currently accepting applications and setting up interviews with teachers.

Toranto said she has selected both school leaders. Glendalyn Lewis, a current Einstein teacher, will head Einstein 2 next year. Toranto, who will rise to CEO, said she has also selected her replacement at Einstein. She declined to name her successor, because she said the person is currently employed.

Bennett asked Toranto “in the spirit of transparency” for the school community when the principal would be named. Toranto said by April 1 or sooner.

Toranto said Einstein will hold an open house April 4 at 5 p.m. and she continues to promote the school in hopes of boosting enrollment.

As the school grows into a charter management organization, Bennett said it’s important that the governance committee recruit more board members.

“Our major priority is finding additional board members,” said Bennett.

Members Bennett, Laurin Jacobsen, Lauren Pigeon, Emily Danielson, Kathy Litchfield and Chuck Gasho were present. The meeting began at 6:13 p.m. and adjourned at 7:24 p.m.

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About Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned to New Orleans in the fall of 2014 after covering education for the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with majors in journalism and social welfare and a concentration in educational policy studies.

  • nickelndime

    Einstein (a C school – OPSB) gets $1,000,000 of level 5 i3 federal money from New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) to take over the failing ICS (F) school from the RSD, and the RSD says that it did not treat Einstein any differently than it would any other interested applicant!? I just fell off my chair on that one. Hello RICO Act! There is more – Toranto names the principal at Einstein 2 and she knows who will take her place at Einstein 1, but doesn’t want to name that person because the person is currently employed! So, by what method did Toranto select the new administrators?! Were any positions publicly advertised? I don’t think so! And where is the newest Einstein Board member, Ms. Conway (formerly of the New Beginnings Board who jumped ship), but was seated by Einstein recently (albeit not appearing on the public agenda)? Did Conway jump ship to another board, or maybe Toranto appointed her principal? Just asking…

  • NonDramaMama

    Wish Rebecca Williams would cover Lycee again…even if not favorable, at least she was accurate and not inflammatory…. The sub-heading of this article is unnecessarily quarrelsome and misleading. Marta Jewson seems so fixated on open meetings law. It wouldn’t matter so if she weren’t so poorly informed.

  • nickelndime

    The Einstein leaders ARE basing their success on numbers only because that is what translates into money (with a projected salary of $183,000 for the CEO). Their measure of success comes out loud and clear or they would not have accepted a deal from the RSD and New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) – i3 federal grant of $1,000,000 + $800,000. This nonprofit board, led by Toranto, has no concept of what will need to be done academically for a school population of “500” (that’s the number she says she wants) from ICS (an “F” school) which mananed only a modest 1.0 point increase in their School Performance Score. Do the math – the original Einstein “1” (which inherited Toranto from Pastorek because it is in an RSD-leased building) does not provide busing for its students – which means that Einstein, even though it is called an open-admissions OPSB charter, has been working with a different kind of student population (other than what ICS with busing has had to work with), and Einstein Charter has been a “C” school for a couple of years now. Obviously, Toranto is no EINSTEIN! I enjoy different perspectives, so please continue to post, but with the information that is in this article alone, I could write a book! THE LENS is doing great.

  • nickelndime

    Here’s another one (just like the UNO Capital One “New Beginnings” lack of CEO credentials – Sametta Brown): Einstein gets a $1,000,000 federal grant money from NSNO to take over the failing RSD “F” Intercultural Charter School, plus $800,000 for busing. ICS becomes Einstein 2 and CEO Shawn Toranto gets a salary boost of $183,000. Current CEO/Principal Toranto names (without public announcement of a vacancy) Glendalyn Irene Framer Lewis as the principal, who is not certified as an adminsitrator.