New Orleans College Prep embarks on national search for next CEO

With a high-pressure school year coming to an end, the board of the New Orleans College Prep charter network is beginning a national search to find its next CEO. The network was founded by Ben Kleban, who resigned at the end of 2016 after his election to the Orleans Parish School Board. The College Prep board initially elevated Kleban’s two top deputies — Natalie Kaharick, who oversaw operations, and Andy Parker, who led academics — to an unusual co-CEO leadership structure, but by February, Parker had resigned as well and left the organization. Parker’s departure was due in part to the pressure around the below-expectations performance of Sylvanie Williams Elementary, which had been the first school that the College Prep network was awarded by the state to operate. After several years of academic growth, scores at Sylvanie Williams began to fall — and state charter-school regulations dictate that if Sylvanie Williams does not rise above its D grade this year, College Prep will lose the charter.

New Orleans College Prep votes against returning any schools to OPSB (live coverage)

The New Orleans College Prep governing board voted Tuesday evening against returning either Cohen College Prep High School or Crocker College Prep to the oversight of the Orleans Parish School Board for the next school year, meaning all the charter network’s schools will return at once the following year with the rest of the schools around the city. OPSB Deputy Superintendent Mary Garton attended College Prep’s board meeting Tuesday to invite the network to return one or more of its schools. State law mandates that all schools under the Recovery School District will return in a year, but OPSB was hoping that around 10 would choose to do so early this year to begin building organizational structures for them, and so far, nine schools have chosen to do so — including some from the Choice Foundation and Firstline, as well as Sci Academy. The primary benefit of returning early, Garton said, is that schools in the OPSB and their leaders naturally have more conversations and input with OPSB administrators about how the system will be designed for the return of all schools. Some networks have opted to send a single school back to place their leaders as a sort of liaison with the OPSB during the transition.

New Orleans College Prep receives $30,000 pledge to help with Sylvanie Williams intervention

After New Orleans College Prep identified a list of intervention efforts to bring test scores at Sylvanie Williams elementary high enough to retain its charter, a local foundation pledged a $30,000 infusion to help pay for the forms of extra coaching for students, officials said. Sylvanie Williams received a School Performance Score of 54 after the last school year, a ‘D’ letter grade that could result in state officials taking the school away from the New Orleans College Prep charter network if it does not improve to a ‘C’ this year. After disappointing internal testing results in December that yielded a projected score of 39, school officials put together an aggressive strategy for tutoring students that focused on after-hours instruction by teachers, Saturday classes, social work to help with home issues, and additional coaching for instructors. The strategy showed some initial results, with internal test grades jumping to a 48 in only about three weeks into the new year, officials said in early February after staff shakeups that also cost the school its academic leader, former co-CEO Andy Parker. But those extra staff hours all come with costs, as do the buses to bring students to school on Saturday, and school officials had informed the College Prep governing board that they expected to exceed the organization’s operating budget.

Top academic administrator from College Prep resigns amid struggle to retain Sylvanie Williams charter

The academic leader of the New Orleans College Prep charter network resigned unexpectedly last week as the organization struggles to improve test scores at its first campus enough to prevent the state from revoking its charter. After the unopposed election of College Prep’s founding CEO Ben Kleban to the Orleans Parish School Board, the College Prep board named Andy Parker and Natalie Kaharick to succeed him as co-CEOs, Kaharick to focus on operations and Parker on academics. Meanwhile, College Prep network has been striving all year to improve test scores at Sylvanie Williams Elementary beyond its current ‘D’ rating, which if unsuccessful would likely mean College Prep would no longer operate that school. The benchmark testing in December showed somewhat discouraging results — a projected 39 School Performance Score, less than the 54 Sylvanie Williams earned last year and far beneath the 70 it needs to keep the charter, Parker told the school’s governing board in January. Parker had predicted that January results would provide a better picture of where Sylvanie Williams was headed, but he was not there to deliver them at a special board meeting Monday evening, as he had resigned Wednesday, Feb.

New Orleans College Prep officials strive for renewal of Sylvanie Williams charter

Sylvanie Williams elementary school was the first campus awarded to the New Orleans College Prep charter network eight years ago, and now officials are pouring their resources into improving the struggling school’s grades enough to hold on to its charter. After being awarded to the College Prep network in 2009, the school’s letter grade assigned by the state climbed to a C in 2013. It fell back to a D the following year, and remained there in the scores released last fall, ending with a score of 54.7 that is well short of the 70 needed in order for state officials to renew Sylvanie Williams’ charter. This year, after a number of administrative changes, the school has been closely following students’ progress to determine specific strategies for improving each child’s performance. Midyear benchmarking, however, showed that they are still “quite short” of the scores they will need for the school to earn a 70, said College Prep data director Michael Ho in a presentation to the charter network’s governing board in early January.

Cohen soars, Sylvanie Williams stumbles in this year’s scores, officials predict

The former Walter L. Cohen High School — which only a few years ago was a bottom-barrel F-rated school labeled one of the most dangerous in America — is on the precipice of scoring a B rating, officials with New Orleans College Prep charter organization said Thursday, a crucial step towards alumni goal of restoring it to the glory of decades past. But Sylvanie Williams elementary, the same organization’s first charter school, saw its scores slip again last year as state charter-renewal deadlines loom ever closer. The New Orleans College Prep charter network governs three schools that will be receiving letter grades from the state over the next month — Cohen, Crocker and Sylvanie Williams — as well as the newly created Hoffman campus of kindergarten students (which will not be graded until its students reach third grade). While the state has not yet released official grades from the 2014-15 year for any schools with elementary grades, CEO Ben Kleban gave the College Prep governing board a preview of what to expect based on the raw test scores and other data that have been returned. Cohen and Crocker

Cohen — not included in the high-school scores because it technically includes eighth grade — showed test scores and graduation rates to earn a 79.2, a substantial increase from the prior year’s 72.5 and a high C on the state’s 150-point grading scale.