Einstein board authorizes school to spend $150,000 on supplies at Intercultural site

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Just weeks away from taking on a second school, Einstein Charter School leaders called an emergency meeting Wednesday night to request an additional $150,000 to purchase materials they say the new site needs to open this fall.

It’s an unforeseen cost school leaders say can be covered with unanticipated extra per-pupil revenue collected this spring and higher than expected fall enrollment.

Einstein has been charged with taking over and turning around academically failing Intercultural Charter School come July 1. Einstein was awarded a $1 million federal grant earlier this year to facilitate its growth from a single charter school into a charter management organization. School leaders call Intercultural’s site Einstein Extension.

At a meeting last week, Einstein’s former principal and current Chief Executive Officer Shawn Toranto told board members that Intercultural’s current campus was lacking inventory, according to a document she received from the Recovery School District.

Toranto distributed a purchase request Wednesday night, detailing the $150,000 they want to spend at Einstein Extension, what leaders are now calling the Intercultural school. The list included 73 computers, 90 calculators, 9 printers, and projectors, among other items.

One line item in particular caught board president Ryan Bennett’s eye: A $1,000 allotment per laptop.

“I do know that much of the ed [education] world is moving toward Google Chromebooks,” said Bennett, “which are like a fraction of the cost.”

Einstein’s information technology specialist Phong Tran said they would consider Bennett’s suggestion, but were planning to buy MacBooks, which he felt would last longer than Chromebooks and would be better suited for the school’s software.

Chromebooks do not have a hard drive, as most traditional laptops do, which makes them less expensive, though they are primarily limited to web-based activity.

Bennett stressed that he did not want to dictate administrative decisions, and that he was only asking school leaders to check out the cheaper web-based laptops. “I think we should highly consider looking at other hardware.”

Overall, Gasho seemed wary of handing out the $150,000. He asked Toranto to pursue other avenues, such as community donations or requesting items from the RSD, before spending the allotted amount. Toranto said she would oblige, but added she felt time was of the essence.

Bennett agreed with Gasho, but stressed that if the school had the money that they take the steps to be prepared for Einstein Extension students on day one.

Gasho questioned where materials from Intercultural had gone. But Bennett asked the board to focus on what they can do now rather than trying to track down missing supplies.

“What we need to do is address the situation,” Bennett said.

The board then turned to Einstein’s business manager Doug Guidry to explain how the school could account for the added expense in its $8.1 million budget, which was approved last week.

Guidry said the school recently received additional per-pupil funding. Most of that, he said, would go toward retirement contributions, but the leftover amount-about $50,000-could help with the cost of the requested supplies.

After reviewing enrollment numbers, Bennett was convinced that the school could handle the additional costs as its fall enrollment was projected higher than initially anticipated.

Toranto is expecting 943 students between the two schools, which would more than cover operating costs, Bennett said.

Gasho asked that the board and administration be proactive in seeking out donations to fulfill the request. “We should have seen it coming.”

And board members discussed to what extent that was true, but reached no conclusion.

“I want to literally just move and make sure our kids our served,” said Bennett.

“I want to do that too,” said Gasho.

“At this point, what we’re projecting for students more than covers that $150,000,” said Bennett. He said he was comfortable expediting the process and approving the money.

The board unanimously authorized Toranto to spend up to $150,000 on the requested supplies.

Toranto also provided a scope of work being done at the extension site to board members. An email from Recovery School District official Tiffany Delcour details the work to be done at Intercultural before Einstein moves in. It states work should be completed by July 5.

Gasho was not impressed by the email. “The scope on here is very poorly explained.”

Toranto said would survey the Intercultural site with her administrative team and RSD on Thursday to ensure the RSD inventory sheet was accurate.

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