Apr 232018

Sylvanie Williams College Prep elementary on Martin Luther King Boulevard, photographed in March 2017. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The New Orleans College Prep charter network is putting the final touches on its transition this summer back to governance by the Orleans Parish School Board — without one of its elementary campuses, Sylvanie Williams.

College Prep’s board leaders are in the process of signing the lease agreements this week with the Orleans Parish School Board after recently voting to return to the OPSB, a formality given that state law requires all Recovery School District schools to return to the OPSB starting with schools’ new fiscal years this summer. Starting in July, College Prep will begin reporting to OPSB for the three schools it operates — Cohen high school, Crocker elementary and Hoffman early learning center — but not Sylvanie Williams, which College Prep will lose the charter for after several years of low performance.

Sylvanie Williams has a new principal for the remainder of the school year, Kelly Knox, who was started earlier this year as an instructional manager at the school. The previous principal, Dr. Stanley Green, has “decided to move on” given that the school year is ending, said College Prep’s new CEO Joel Castro, but he declined to elaborate on the circumstances of Green’s departure.

After Sylvanie Williams closes at the end of the school year, College Prep will move the items it purchased there out — such as laptops. The Sylvanie Williams campus is then being assigned to a new charter operator, Castro said.

With the transition approaching, OPSB school-performance director Dina Hasiotis visited the College Prep’s board at their monthly meeting Monday evening to discuss some aspects. In some ways, very little will change, as RSD and OPSB already shared the same standards based on state law, Hasiotis said.

“Folks think we have a lot of different expectations, but we don’t,” Hasiotis said. “Just follow the law, do what you do, and things should be fine.”

From an academic standpoint, OPSB requires a day of outside monitoring of the school’s testing practices per year. On governance, OPSB will require that College Prep add a parent or recent graduate to its governing board.

A more substantive change this year concerns the standards for renewing a school’s charter, although that’s a new requirement of the state law that reunified the OPSB and RSD, and not exactly a difference between the two organizations, Hasitotis said. Previously, a school that earned a ‘D’ in a year it was up for renewal would lose its charter automatically, like Sylvanie Williams.

Under the new law, the OPSB will examine the ‘D’ rated school to see its growth rate in scores, and some ‘D’ schools will be renewed. College Prep would still have lost the charter for Sylvanie Williams under this system, but some D-rated schools that are showing promise will be given another chance, Hasiotis said.

“We don’t want to be always closing schools if we can help it,” Hasiotis said. “…There’s a lot of good work that the SPS score doesn’t necessarily show.”

Next year, every public school in New Orleans will be operated by a charter other than McDonogh 35, Hasiotis noted says. During this year, the OPSB is also reviewing the performance of the EnrollNOLA system (previously known as OneApp) that drew a number of complaints this spring, but having more high-performing schools is the best way to improve it, she said.

“Making sure we have lots of high quality options becomes part of the same conversation,” Hasiotis said.

Castro, presiding over his second monthly board meeting as the school’s new CEO, said he has begun digging deeper into the data from the school’s interim evaluations prior to the state tests currently being administered. Those state test results will ultimately be the best data for charting the schools’ course future, but tn many subjects, such as Algebra, Castro said he can already see the need for much improvement.

Board members asked Castro to begin using the interim testing data to build a “dashboard” they can use to understand the students’ progress through the year, which will then be replaced by the actual test data. Castro said that in addition to expanding summer enrichment options, he is already planning on ways to improve attendance, which hovers around 85 percent each day at Cohen High School.

“We really have to set some higher expectations,” Castro said. “When a student’s not in the classroom, we can’t teach them.”

Other issues discussed Monday include the search for new members on the board, and a grant to add two more classrooms to the Hoffman early-learning center next year. To read our live coverage, see below:

Live Blog New Orleans College Prep board meeting – April 23

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