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Enrollment jump boosts Einstein budget by $1.2 million; public is a no-show at hearing

For the second year in a row, no members of the public came out to comment on Einstein Charter School’s preliminary annual budget.

At the legally mandated public hearing, Tuesday night, chief financial officer Douglas Guidry fielded questions from board members and staff about the draft $9.3 million spending plan for the coming year.

The 2014-15 budget reflects a $1.2 million increase from last year. Guidry said he based the budget on a projected $8,938 in per-pupil state funding. The New Orleans East charter school, which offers classes from pre-k through eighth grade, aims to enroll 848 students next year on its two campuses.

Guidry said that salary and benefits for staff accounts for 85 percent of the school’s overall annual budget. According to Guidry, most of the expense increases this year are tied to salaries for teachers and staff newly hired in response to increased enrollment.

The school participates in the teacher’s retirement system of Louisiana. Guidry said the school’s contribution to the state retirement program this year is 28 percent of teacher pay, up from 27.2 percent last year. Guidry said he also anticipates insurance costs rising by about 5 percent next year.

For example, next year Einstein will pay $2.08 million on salaries for elementary school teachers. The school will pay $754,483 in teacher retirement contributions and $413,643 group insurance for elementary teachers.

Staff and student numbers will continue to grow at Einstein’s extension campus, now in its second year.  Last year the school budgeted $632,802 for kindergarten, elementary and special-education teaching positions at the extension campus. Next year Einstein will spend $1,190,783, an 88 percent increase.

With a 67 percent jump in expenses from last year, the school’s program to support gifted students is the spending category allocated the biggest increase. Guidry said the school is hiring an additional teacher to work with gifted students on both campuses.

Chief executive officer Shawn Toranto oversees staff at both campuses and will be paid $181,369 again this year.

Board members Zachary Wool and Lauren Pigeon attended the meeting. Interim principal Phong Tran and development director Daniel Davis were also present.

Staff waited for 38 minutes to take public comment but with no members of the public on hand, Guidry adjourned the meeting at 5:38 p.m.

Wool said the board’s governance and finance committee will likely meet to discuss the budget before it goes to a vote at the board’s next scheduled meeting, June 10 at Einstein’s main campus, 5100 Cannes St.

The final budget must be approved by the school’s directors and submitted to the Orleans Parish School Board by June 30th, Guidry said.

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  • nickelndime

    EINSTEIN: Would somebody please explain “THE HOW” (the qualifications, the credentials, the degree, etc. upon which) $181,369 CEO Toranto appointed Phong Tran the interim principal at Einstein? From what I can tell (checking all sources, including the LDOE site), the guy does not have the minimum qualifications to be a teaching assistant, much less a principal (falling out of the chair and getting ready to roll). WHAT? Is the word “interim” some kind of code for “nobody’s paying attention”? Obviously, because no one from the public was at the 9 million budget hearing as well. And who are the new board members? It is my understanding that Ryan D. Bennett resigned after almost 3 years. Maybe Bennett shouldn’t have been on the Einstein Board in the first place – and if the OPSB had been doing its job, he wouldn’t have). Bennett might have what one could call “mixed” (a/k/a “conflictual”) interests. Bennett is part of the central office personnel for RSD FirstLine schools (and his employer includes a board member who is employed by Liberty Bank – Greg St. Etienne). So, maybe that would explain why Bennett wouldn’t sign off on a Line of Credit with Liberty Bank for Einstein and instead, got the board to approve the VP to sign in his absence. These guys are thicker than thieves. Now, if you accept literally what is being reported, and gawd forbid that you should read between the lines, then everything looks okay. Right? WRONG!