Some Arise Academy board members are worried the non-profit that governs the school will inherit unforeseen liabilities when it assumes operation of a failed charter school next week.

Arise was selected to take over academically failing Pride College Prep when Pride’s charter was not renewed last fall, and it will open its second school in the Mildred Osborne building where Pride operated this year. Arise will assume operation of the school July 1.

“I think we’re picking up unknown liabilities,”  board member Larry Eustis said at a meeting last week.

Board members and school leader Andrew Shahan disagreed. They said Pride and Arise were entirely separate organizations. The fact that Arise would be operating a school with the same children in the same building, they said, should be viewed merely as a coincidence.

“From the legal standpoint it’s a brand new entity,” board member Miles Granderson said.

Complicating matters, Pride College Prep leaders have been unsure if will have to pay a portion of utility bills they did not see last fall. Pride moved into the brand new facility while contractors were still working. Pride did not pay utilities for several months, which is part of the reason the school is anticipating a budget surplus at the end of the fiscal year.

“What happened to that money that they have?” Eustis asked.

“It’s up to them to choose,” said Shahan.

Earlier this year Shahan gave Pride leaders a list of materials he said his incoming school could utilize. After a long discussion, Pride board members opted not to make any decisions on where the money would go until at least the close of the fiscal year.

Now Shahan said he thinks Pride leaders might even wait until the school’s audit is complete later this fall to make any decisions.

Eustis continued to emphasize his concerns and requested something in writing stating Arise would not take on any of Pride’s liabilities. But Granderson, Shahan and others felt that unnecessary.

“It’s one entity ending, another one starting,” Granderson reiterated.

Shahan said a contract or agreement would not make sense because there was nothing to acknowledge between the two entities.

“In the practical context we’re taking over Pride,” said Granderson, “but not in the legal context.”

“From my experience this is very murky business,” said Eustis, noting they are supposed to be in the new building in less than two weeks.

The board elected officers and approved several revisions to its bylaws. Including recognizing their growth from a single charter school to a charter management organization.

School leaders will spend the coming weeks moving Arise into the Douglass Building across St. Claude Avenue from Arise’s current building. The school will be housed in the Douglass building temporarily while its campusis being renovated. Arise also will gain access to the Osborne building and begin setting up the second school.

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...