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Thefts prompt Einstein to add costly security system

A recent string of thefts on Einstein Charter School of Math and Science’s extension campus in eastern New Orleans prompted the purchase and installation of a new security system priced at just upwards of $60,000, chief financial officer Doug Guivry said at Monday’s board meeting.

In the last month, eight break-ins have occurred at the extension campus at 5316 Michoud Blvd., resulting in the theft of eight computers, as well as broken windows and doors. The cost to cover the repairs and replace the equipment is estimated at $15,000. Einstein also hired armed security personnel to guard the school from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2, resulting in an additional $9,800 in expenses.

“We only had motion sensors in the hallways, not in the classrooms,” Guivry said after the meeting, which began at 6:03 p.m. and adjourned at 6:40 p.m. The board met even though it failed to give 24 hours advance notice of its agenda, as required by state law.

According to Guivry, the thieves at first exploited the security loophole by avoiding hallways during the break-ins and entering directly through classrooms. Eventually, they set off the hallway motion sensors, leading to the arrest of two suspects over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Guivry said the new security system includes motion detectors, strobe lights, sirens and sensors. Its implementation will reduce the school’s insurance premium by a yet undetermined amount.

The school carries three different insurance policies that may be used to cover the thefts. The Recovery School District handles insurance claims that are due to property damage. Discussions with the RSD on this matter have not occurred yet and will require official police reports.

The costs due to the break-ins mar Einstein’s otherwise robust financial picture. The school holds $2.6 million in cash on hand and is not projected to enter a deficit at any time during the current school year.

“Financially, we are sound, very sound,” Guivry said. “Certainly we have adequate reserves to meet any untoward emergency that should happen.”

Also discussed at the meeting was the board’s responsibility to issues raised by parents of Einstein’s students.

“We don’t get tons and tons of people at the board meetings,”* board president Ryan Bennett said. “At the end of the day, there should be a channel for parent complaints that don’t go to us … they need to go through proper channels already outlined.”

The problem, Bennett said, was that some parents believe the board is the primary group to receive school problems. Though the board should be ultimately responsible,  he said, it should not be the initial body to receive the complaint. Other board members cited the school’s handbook, which dictates that complaints are to be handled first by school personnel before consideration by the board.

“To me, it’s more of a positive than a negative,” principal/CEO Shawn Toranto said, referring to parent interaction with the board.

Board members Lauren Narcisse, Charles Gasho, Zachary Wool, Bennett, Lauren Jacobsen, and Emily Danielson attended the meeting.

While the state Open Meetings Law requires that a meeting notice, including an agenda, be posted and distributed 24 hours before a meeting, The Lens did not receive the meeting’s agenda until 9 a.m. on the day of the meeting.

The board’s next meeting is a retreat and will occur Saturday on the second floor of Fair Grinds Coffee House from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will be open to the public.

*Correction: Earlier, this story incorrectly quoted Ryan Bennett as saying “We get tons and tons of people at the board meetings.” (Dec. 10, 2013)

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  • nickelndime

    What’s in your wallet? LOL and rolling on the floor. Pick me up so I can breathe.
    The real theft at Einstein Charter occurs “legally” on a daily basis. Thank you, Adams and Reese, Einstein counsel. Forget the costly security systems. Again, one of the best examples of lack of oversight by the OPSB (charter authorizer). The CEO slash principal’ s salary has risen to $183,000, well over what the charter stipulates, and the business manager’s salary is one of the highest salaries in the State, sans the business manager qualifications. Is this any way to run a charter school?

  • nickelndime

    Hey Mr. Bennett, there ayn’t nobody showing up at the Einstein Charter board meetings (what else is new?). Is your statement a typ-o or a lie-o, for the benefit of THE LENS reporter, Art Bueno, who has never been to one of your meetings?!!! ” ‘We get tons and tons of people at the board meetings,’ board president Ryan Bennett said.” At the last November board meeting, a parent, Melanie Pittman, who voiced drinking-water fountain complaints, and a former principal, Ron Midkiff, showed up. Again, I ask, is this any way to run a charter school?