ReNEW School’s staff is anxious to learn how much of the $755,922 the charter school network budgeted for telecommunication to be reimbursed by a federal program will actually come back.

The E-rate program, overseen by the Federal Communication Commission, helps provide telecommunication services by reimbursing a significant portion of their costs. The higher a school’s free and reduced lunch rate, a measure of poverty, the larger the discount.

Last month, board members learned the charter management organization had only received $1,800 of the budgeted $755,922 as of Jan. 31.

ReNEW Schools currently oversees Batiste Cultural Arts Academy, Reed Elementary, SciTech Academy, and ReNEW Accelerated High School, and will operate Schaumburg Elementary next year. The network is eligible for a large discount on telecommunication services because a majority of its students are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

ReNEW’s reimbursements hinge on a ‘cost-effective review’, which is currently being completed by a third party said ReNEW President Kevin Guitterrez said during the board’s March 14 meeting.

Guitterrez said the reviewers recently asked for “inventory information,” which he says is a good sign.

Last month Guitterrez said the review was likely initiated by ReNEW’s unconventional reimbursement request, which includes asking for reimbursements on mobile broadband for laptops that students are allowed to take home. While Guitterrez is confident the proposal will be reimbursed, he’s unsure of the timeline.

Guitterrez said ReNEW has already begun to turn off some data plans, hoping to save money in the interim.

CEO Gary Robichaux and Director of Data and Assessment Andrew Cox presented the new rubric for school performance scores.

“I like the new system,” said Robichaux.

“I’m glad they don’t use multiple years of data anymore,” he said, “That was hard on turnarounds.”

While schools are no longer awarded for attendance rates, they do have the opportunity to earn bonus points in other areas. If a school increases student scores by more than the state average in that population, the school will receive additional points toward the overall score Cox said.

“I expect us to get 10 bonus points added on to the end of our score,” said Cox.

In the fall of 2012, school scores were based on a scale between 0 and 200, paired with that score is a letter grade. This fall, scores will be based on a scale between 0 and 150 points.

Board President Sharon Courtney asked staff if the new system would be easier for the public to understand.

Guitterrez said as far as public perception goes, he believes the driving force behind the school performance scores was the letter grades themselves, not necessarily the score, and that the new system attempted to keep letter grades the same.

With the E-rate reimbursement still up in the air, leaders are also concerned about the budgetary impact of an increase in enrollment.

Though the network has 20 more students than projected this year, Bryant said the organization won’t receive funding from the state for those students until the state adjusts its funding based on the actual figures — and that usually doesn’t happen until late March.

“We are currently being paid less than our total number of students,” said financial controller Tanya Bryant.

Last month staff announced the network had already drawn $150,000 from the network’s line of credit.

Member Donald Herry said his only concern looking forward to next year’s budget was the E-rate funding. Herry said he knew this year’s proposal was “very aggressive”.

“We cut the internet service to some of our laptops already,” said Guitterrez.

“Worst case scenario is a portion is denied and we go into an appeal process,”  said Guitterrez.

Robichaux said Lee Green, the school leader at Batiste Cultural Arts Academy since June, resigned in January. The position is being filed by Anna Faye Caminita who served as school director.

“We had a need, and she was most familiar with the situation,” said Robichaux after the meeting.

Colleen Mackay, ReNEW chief of staff, said Friday that Green resigned to take another position in the city.

Member Liza Sherman is rebuilding the board’s development committee. In addition to board members Courtney, Siona LaFrance and Carol Asher, Sherman has recruited ten additional members to serve on the advisory committee.  They are: Malana Joseph, Philip Allison, Janie Glade, Jill Zimmerman, Warren Surcouf III, Annick Brand, Heather Post, Juliana Anderson-Wilkins, Hannah Macgowan and Victor Cato.

Members Courtney, Donald Herry, Randy Roig, Sandra Cahill, Mary Brown, and Kathy Conklin were present. Members Siona LaFrance and Greggory Harris arrived at 5:45 p.m. Member Martin Feibelman arrived at 6:20 p.m.

The meeting began at 5:39 p.m. and adjourned at 6:38 p.m. The board will meet again April 11.

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...