Charter Schools Related schools coverage »

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

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.

Help us report this story     Report an error    
The Lens' donors and partners may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover.
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.

  • DomesticSub

    “But Bennett asked the board to focus on what they can do now rather than trying to track down missing supplies.”

    I have an idea: ask one of these Board members where all the stuff is located. Made it easy for you!

    Cam-Thanh Tran

    Alvaro B. Alcazar, Ph.D.

    Vong Nguyen
    Vice Chair Community/Culture Relation

    Kathleen E. Carlin, Ph. D.

    Francis J. Cascio, CPA

    Larry A. Baudoin

    Edward L. Blouin

    Tap Bui

    Donovan DiLorenzo

    Jerome Jordan

  • nickelndime

    Well thank you, DomesticSub, for that info. At least you have stepped up. Everybody else is quiet. Even THE LENS has been taken in (emergency meeting!!!), and I don’t expect any improvement soon. Another reporter perhaps, who is not Toranto’s neighbor and does not sit next to her while the meeting is in motion. The problem is that Einstein/OPSB, and the LDOE/RSD, and New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) are part of the thievery. The only thing that truly saddens me is that the students are the real losers here – wasted years in short academic careers! Toranto will receive $181,000 to “manage” two sites! MQVN CDC (Cam-Thanh Tran, et al.) are “looking out” for their own. VIET (Cyndi Nguyen, and family) are “looking out” for their own. They are only doing what this country has shown them works (local, state, and federal). That is not a disparaging remark on these individuals – I can’t really blame them. It is a disparaging remark, however, directed to the State and BESE, and generally on the government that seems to have been lost its way – the vision of the Founding Fathers on what is written in the Constitution yadda yadda yadda.

  • nickelndime

    “Bennett stressed that he did not want to dictate administrative decisions…” Am I missing something? Isn’t that why these charter schools have nonprofit boards which are supposed to provide financial oversight, etc., – to protect student and public interests? Seems to me that Mr. Bennett is somewhat inexperienced in his positon as the chairperson of a board of directors of a charter school. Bennett is employed at the central office of the RSD – FirstLine Schools. What are his interests over at Einstein anyway? Which leads me to reference another commenter’s comment (in another article) that these lay, nonprofit boards do not have the knowledge it takes to manage charter schools – and THAT costs a lot of public mone – resulting in unknowledgeable nonprofit boards relying on the information it receives from individuals who have vested financial intersts and want to keep their jobs (CEO, CFO, COO, CAO, onsite adminsitrators). And while we are at it, would anyone from the OPSB like to explain why the EInstein CEO’s salary is projected to be $181,000 when the salary of administrators is “dictated” by the charter (there’s that word, Mr. Bennett) to be according to the “teacher” salary schedule of the OPSB?” ‘plain dat!,” Mr. Bennett and Mr. Gasho.