Einstein Group, Inc. gave Principal Shawn Toranto a vote of confidence this week, just one month before she is slated to rise to chief executive officer as the charter group assumes operation of an additional school.

After a 50-minute executive session, Einstein’s board unanimously approved Toranto’s year-end review. Board president Ryan Bennett cited “consistent growth in student achievement and school performance scores” under Toranto’s leadership.

“Her achievement and the school’s achievement have been the foundation for Einstein’s growth to a second site,” said Bennett as he read her review aloud. “The community’s confidence in her ability to transform another school is shared by our board.”

Toranto’s review was based on a number of factors, said Bennett, including parent surveys, teacher surveys and 2011-2012 school year data.

All of this comes one month before Einstein is slated to takeover academically failing Intercultural Charter School. Einstein was awarded a $1 million federal grant earlier this year, and charged with turning around the failing school. The group currently operates Einstein Charter School and Einstein’s administration has been preparing for the July takeover for several months.

As part of the takeover process, the board approved two leases for the two schools Tuesday night and will lease the buildings from the Recovery School District. The leases, one for 5100 Cannes Boulevard, where Einstein is currently located, the other for 5316 Michoud Boulevard, Intercultural’s site, are good for two years with the possibility of extension. Einstein will not have to pay rent in either building for the first year, but that is subject to change in subsequent years according to the lease.

Toranto said she received a list of property currently at the Intercultural site and that the site doesn’t have much inventory. She said the school is currently undergoing roof repairs as well as some work in the bathrooms. She hopes to have access to the building the first week of July.

After months of research, Toranto said Einstein plans to use Orleans Parish School Board shared services for transportation, which she said is less expensive than other companies she inquired with. Providing busing to returning Intercultural students was a requirement of the federal grant and New Schools for New Orleans gave Einstein an additional $800,000 grant to do so. Einstein does not currently bus its students.

Toranto is expecting 564 students at Einstein next year. The extension site, however, has only enrolled 247 students, shy of Toranto’s goal of at least 300 and well short of her ideal enrollment of 475. She said those numbers were not final as the RSD is still processing the final round of enrollment applications.

The board unanimously approved the school’s $8.1 million budget, which includes both schools. Last week’s public budget hearing did not draw any public comment.

“Our cash position again, is very very strong,” said Doug Guidry, the school’s business manager. He highlighted the unexpected $78,000 Einstein recently received in per-pupil funding after adjustments in the formula were made.

The board will conduct a self-review this month. It will include teacher surveys, a review of the non-profit’s bylaws and a rubric the board developed.

“This is about holding ourselves accountable,” said Bennett.

The board unanimously voted to add Zachary Wool as a member. Wool is an attorney at Barrios Kingsdorf and Casteix LLP.

A former Einstein administrator, Ron Midkiff, was present at the meeting.

Board members Bennett, Laurin Jacobsen, Lauren Pigeon, Chuck Gasho, and Kathy Litchfield were present for the two-hour long meeting.

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...