New charter unexpectedly adds grade but appears short of enrollment goal


One of Foundation Prep's modular buildings awaits the final construction of an entry for its kindergartners and first-graders

Marta Jewson / The Lens

One of Foundation Prep\’s modular buildings awaits the final construction of an entry for its kindergartners and first-graders

After struggling to meet its enrollment goal, Foundation Preparatory Academy must rewrite its budget for a student body less than half the size leaders envisioned for its inaugural year.

The charter school’s board members discussed enrollment and minor problems with the classrooms during a regularly scheduled board meeting Wednesday night that lasted just eight minutes.

Six board members sat around two kid-sized lunch tables, alongside founding Head of School Myrialis King, in an echoey community center next to the school’s not-yet complete modulars in the Michoud neighborhood.

The literacy-focused school opened to kindergarten students on Tuesday. That same day, it unexpectedly opened enrollment for first-grade students, who will begin Aug. 17.

The school’s charter documents said it planned to enroll 108 kindergarteners this year, and add a new grade level each year as it built a full elementary school.

Board members learned Wednesday that the Orleans Parish School Board, Foundation Prep’s authorizer, wants the school to submit a revised budget in two weeks based on 40 students. Its current budget is based on 75.

After the meeting, King declined to say how many students are enrolled.

“We have no comment,” she said.

Since Aug. 4, The Lens has repeatedly sought updated enrollment figures. The Lens filed a public-records request early Thursday for the school’s enrollment figures. King wrote back via email.

“I will get you the information you requested as soon as possible,” she wrote. “We’ve been hesitant to divulge hard numbers because we are still in the process of enrollment – numbers change daily and we continue to expect more students by August 17 when our first grade classes begin.”

King responded again late Thursday with the day’s headcount: 15 kindergarten students and one first-grade student.

Recruiting has been difficult, and more than 170 kindergarten vacancies exist citywide.

Another new charter, Cypress Academy, also made the decision to add first grade to its kindergarten-only first year plan. However, the board of Cypress added the additional grade through a public vote earlier this year. Reached Wednesday email, School Leader Bob Berk said the Uptown school has about 60 students enrolled.

At the Foundation Prep meeting, board member Eric Jensen gave an enrollment report, which was relatively short and contained no numbers.

“We all know that students are important right now,” Jensen said. “So that’s what we’ve been working on.”

In facility news, the board learned the school’s modulars are almost ready for students after a delay in delivery. Outside the community center, several modulars were poised three feet off the ground but had no steps. Ramps and stairs appeared to be in progress based on the stacks of framing lumber and decking and a few freshly installed landings.

One item notably absent from board discussion was the sudden addition of first grade.

Kathleen Padian, who helps oversee charters for the Orleans Parish School Board, said Thursday that the board does not need to amend its operating agreements with Cypress or Foundation Prep. Both are already approved to operate schools with many grade levels.

Such a change in a charter school, though, usually is approved by the school’s board.

After the Foundation Prep board meeting, King said the Orleans Parish School Board had approved the addition of first grade and that the charter board simply had to “agree” with the decision. She said board members did agree, but no vote was taken.

“There’s no official vote because it’s already approved,” board chairman Matthew Sherman said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the school’s response to a public records request. (Aug. 14, 2015)

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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.

  • nickelndime

    Excellent and timely follow-up on Foundation Prep board meeting, THE LENS’ Marta Jewson! WOW! A 6-minute board meeting. And WE thought “20” minutes was fast.

    So o o o! Just so WE have this straight – Foundation Prep should receive MFP money on September 1, 2015 based on what the OPSB told the board to re-write (for 40 students). OR WILL IT?

    Based on what Foundation Prep has already received in MFP money for August 1, 2015, based on what – 75 students? – 108 students?, is “Stan” and the OPSB going to release any MFP money at all to Foundation Prep on September 1st?

    And speaking of MFP money for Foundation Prep, to which bank is the money being wired, and who is handling the money? A board member?

    Moving ahead…Forget the charter! Forget the Operating Agreement! Forget the charter application process! Forget it all! WE have it straight from “the horse’s mouth” – IT DOESN’T MATTER. This comes from the horse who was in charge of all of this B$ in the first place – OPSB-authorized charter schools.
    08/13/2015 8:11 PM DST USA

  • Lee Barrios

    I must agree with you on this. And my understanding is that new charters get start up grants for three years. Used to be $200,000 a year but things change to much so often…..I bet NSNO would know however. Don’t they launder, I mean administer those Grant funds? So much for public information law. Since this charter is under OPSB would they be a defendant in a public in for lawsuit also?

  • nickelndime

    Anytime you (collectively speaking) ask the Foundation Prep board president, Mr. Sherman, for specifics (i.e., CEO salary, CEO qualifications, budget numbers, enrollment, cost of modulars, cost of bus contract…), this is the response: “IT’S ON THE WEBSITE.”

    All WE can say is, THAT MUST BE ONE HELLUVA WEB SITE! Who is the gaddam webmaster?!!

    The Foundation Prep charter application (independently reviewed for the OPSB by the “former” RSD employee, Gabriela Fighetti, who was in charge of last year’s OneApp fiasco in the parking lot) was projected to open with 108 kindergarten students this school year.

    Next year (!), Foundation Prep was projected to move those 108 students to First Grade and fill up another four kindergarten classes with another 108 students!

    What are these people on?! WE want some.
    08/13/2015 10:59 PM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    Except for the fact that Foundation Prep is not in a closed Winn-Dixie parking lot on St. Louis Street in Treme’ and there is no Ray Smart Foundation, WE could swear that WE are watching the remake of the OPSB version of “Lagniappe Academies.”

    But there is more! Even though the Foundation Prep Board experienced a delay in the delivery of the modulars in time for the school opening Tuesday – that are still without steps, etc., this board projects that Foundation Prep will be at VIET (housed on Archdiocesean property) for only this year!!! YUP! YUP! That’s right.

    It seems that somebody (IDK – maybe the “talking horse”) can get them a facility “deal” similar to what happened over at the former OPSB SHAW Campus. Look that one up.
    A charter board buys a closed campus from the OPSB. Then the board sells it to a company that finances it and renovates it…and leases it back to the charter board.

    Seems that “the horse” was in this kind of business before. Ha!

    Holey Moley! This really is money “laundering.”
    08/13/2015 11:17 PM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    The “talking horse” is still on the OPSB payroll, and before she leaves, she might be able to do for Foundation Prep what she has done for “others.”

    Case in point:
    “…Encore Academy is vacating Dibert for Shaw Elementary, a campus that the School Board sold because it didn’t need it.” NOLA.COM 08/13/2015 Danielle Dreilinger

    Do you (generally speaking) see how this actually works? “IT (the OPSB) didn’t need it” – the Shaw Campus – just like it didn’t need Priestly. (Expletive deleted) Pigeon Town! Pigeon Town needs a BESE Type 2 Charter like Lycee’ like it needs another … (pigeon?!)

    Move over Woody, BOY! You ain’t got near what that real estate developer has – and he’s even got his kid enrolled at the school. Talk about incentives – after money – of course. Of course.

    08/14/2015 1:06 AM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    WE are confused. Foundation Prep is scrambling to find 40 students but look at this NOLA.COM post dated August 4, 2015.
    Question: Does the left OPSB hand not know what the right OPSB hand is doing, or is it just downright theft of public money?
    Here’s the excerpt:

    Tiffany Cherrie is the new principal at Einstein Charter High at Sarah Towles Reed in New Orleans. ( )
    By NOLA Community Submission
    on August 04, 2015 at 8:10 AM, updated August 04, 2015 at 8:11 AM
    The expansion of Einstein Charter Schools, including 500 additional PK-8 seats for the 2015-16 school year, the opening of Einstein Charter Middle at Sarah Towles Reed, and the future addition of a high school, has merited the hire of three new principals to accommodate the growing school’s two New Orleans campuses.

    Einstein Charter Schools’ campuses in New Orleans include the new Einstein Charter Middle at Sarah Towles Reed, Einstein Charter School Extension and the original Einstein Charter School at Village De L’Est.

    Nan Ryan is the new principal at Einstein Charter Middle at Sarah Towles Reed in New Orleans.

    Einstein Extension and Einstein Charter Middle are a replication of Einstein’s original Village De L’Est campus, the first open-admissions elementary charter school in eastern New Orleans. Einstein operates the only top performing, tuition free, open admissions, “B” rated PK-8 elementary schools serving eastern New Orleans.

    “There are exciting things happening at Einstein Charter Schools,” said CEO Shawn Toranto. “Einstein is thrilled to hire highly qualified, extremely capable leaders at our new campuses. Our students deserve the best education and these educators are the best in their fields. The high demand for spots at Einstein Charter Schools speaks volumes about our commitment to the community and the amazing students, staff, parents and teachers we have here.”

    Nan Ryan is the new principal of Einstein Charter Middle at Sarah Towles Reed. Ryan has a bachelor of arts degree and a master’s of education degree from the University of New Orleans. As the former principal of International High School of New Orleans, her students earned the highest ACT scores in New Orleans for an open-admissions high school. Ryan’s outstanding efforts to provide all students access to rigorous academics was recently recognized by the Cowen Institute for Educational Initiatives.

    Tiffany Cherrie is the new principal at Einstein Charter High at Sarah Towles Reed. Reed has served as assistant principal at Lusher High School, chair of the Orleans Parish School Board’s High School Pupil Progression Planning Committee and chair of Lusher’s English and Adolescent Literacy Department and School Improvement School-wide Planning Committee. She has a bachelor of arts degree and a master’s of science degree from Loyola University. Cherrie has over 20 years of experience teaching and leading in public and private elementary, middle and high schools in New Orleans.

    To apply for a grade PK-5 seat at Einstein next year, applications must be dropped off in person at Einstein’s Village De L’Est campus at 5100 Cannes St. or at Einstein’s Extension campus at 5316 Michoud Blvd. (in the building behind Sarah Towles Reed). To apply for a grade 6-8 seat, applications should be dropped off at the Sarah Towles Reed campus at 5316 Michoud Blvd. Einstein’s lower and middle schools do not participate in OneApp. Applicants should call 324-7450.

    08/14/2015 6:32 AM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    Foundation Prep – OPSB-authorized charter school scrambling to find forty students – whatever grade level now – according to the former Deputy of Charter Schools for the OPSB, Kathleen Padian, IT DOESN’T MATTER. THEY CAN DO WHATEVER.

    But look! Kathleen is still on the OPSB payroll. Damn! She is that good! How long does it take an employee to erase a hard drive? Quicker than it takes an old OPSB teacher to clap two erasers together.

    Today, it’s kindergarten and first grade over at Foundation Prep. Tomorrow, who knows? Oh look, WE see some movement/openings at Third Grade. Quick! Get in the car, Ms. Moran King and get another ESPANOL parent over to the Late Enrollment OneApp center. You fight for that student like your six-figure salary depended on it.

    Oh, my bad! It does. Has you considered teaching, Ms. Moran King? You know the old saying, “Them that can, do, and them that can’t…” OPEN UP A NEW CHARTER SCHOOL IN NEW ORLEANS.

    In the words of that old furniture guy on St. Claude Avenue, “LET ‘EM HAVE IT.” BAD CREDIT? No problem. NO CREDIT! No problem.

    08/15/2015 1:03 AM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    Thank you for the enrollment update as of Thursday (08/13/2015) for Foundation Prep, as per THE LENS’ public records request, Marta Jewson.
    08/15/2015 3:35 AM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    Foundation Prep is a little fish – but don’t throw it back. It means that there are bigger fish in the area.
    There is a lot of useable information in the little fish. The little fish doesn’t know it, but it won’t matter, cuz it is going to get eaten up anyway.

    08/15/2015 3:43 AM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    A day late and MFP dollars short. Let’s see. Foundation Prep receives MFP money for 75 students on August 1, 2015. But the students are not there – and guess what? They never will be. But that does not stop Sarah Usdin’s not-for-profit, New Schools of New Orleans (NSNO,) from “administering” a $1 million dollar Federal grant to the board.
    THE LENS’ reporter, Marta Jewson, is asking questions, and Voila! OPSB tells Foundation to add First Grade – which it does – but not publicly (the Board – chaired by Mr. Sherman, Esq. of the Cherhardy Law Firm) does what it is told to do.
    08/18/2015 4:10 AM DST USA