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KIPP plans for Common Core standards

At its meeting last week, KIPP’s board of directors discussed the work that lies ahead in implementing the state’s new Common Core Standards.

Chief Academic Officer Todd Purvis talked about spreading out the costs of the new state-mandated Common Core, and planning ahead for the next two years to avoid the drastic drops in test scores seen recently in New York and feared across the city, state, and nation.

“We’ve got to go all in to be ready for what’s coming in two years,” he told the board Aug. 22. That’s when schools must be aligned with the state standards.

Purvis outlined crucial areas of focus: reading, writing, critical thinking and math.

“It’s going to be a fun couple of years,” Purvis said to laughter.

Board members talked about preparing students, teachers and parents for what is to come.

The board also discussed KIPP’s expansion – in New Orleans as well as likely entering for the first time into the Baton Rouge market.

KIPP Chief of Staff Jennifer Walcott called the statewide expansion a “critical opportunity in front of us.”

According to Director of Advocacy Jonathan Bertsch, “Phase 1” of KIPP New Orleans Schools’ growth plan includes a total of 12 schools, of which nine are currently open.  The remaining three will be a primary school (grades K-4) to open next year, a middle school (grades 5-8) to open in 2015, and a high school (9-12) which does not yet have a firm opening date.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved eight additional charters for KIPP  earlier this month.  Of those eight approvals, one is for the high school that will complete the 12 schools in Phase 1.

The remaining seven charters will open in either New Orleans or Baton Rouge. The approval for the eight new KIPP schools is not tied to specific locations, Walcott said.

Addressing the budget, interim treasurer Stephen Rosenthal said the expense side is the easy side. The “overwhelming uncertainty” is on the revenue side, he said, calling it a “moving target throughout the years.”

Rosenthal listed the culprits as a $500,000 “mistake” by the Orleans Parish School Board, fundraising, non-recurring grants, federal sequestration, changes in enrollment and being “shorted” on Title 1 related to growth.

But overall Rosenthal said the outlook was good, with “amazing progress” – a far cry from a more desperate scenario several years ago.

Rosenthal also discussed the continuing transition after the 100 percent staff turnover in the finance department since the beginning.

Rosenthal said that enrollment targets for this year were met, with the exception of spaces at McDonogh 15.

The new budget errs on the side of conservatism, and Rosenthal said he believes it hopefully “more than makes up for the risks.” The two big “risks” he identified are the Oct. 1 student count, and uncertainties related to the sequestration of federal spending.

The total KIPP revenues were listed at $42,218,900. Expenses were $41,780,026.

The budget passed unanimously.

“At the end of the day we are looking very good on the bottom line,” Rosenthal said.

The board members present at the August meeting were Robert Hudson, Stephen Rosenthal, Therese Badon, Jeffrey Goldring, Ben Allen, Courtney Murphy, Joseph Giarrusso, Jodi Aamodt, Clifford Favrot, John Landrum and Sheila Dickerson

Gwathmey Gomila, Michael Brown and Florencia Polite were absent.

The next meeting will be held Oct. 17.

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