BR.firstdayebr548.081018 (copy)

School children in the hallway, with a 'We Are College Bound' slogan on the wall, seen Thursday, August 9, 2018 at IDEA Bridge, one of two new IDEA charter schools in Baton Rouge.

After delaying the item for a month, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board has agreed to create a position for someone to work with current and future charter schools as well as analyze the performance of struggling Baton Rouge schools.

When the proposed position came up on Oct. 18, charter school skeptics on the board were wary. Other school districts with this position, known as a portfolio manager, have undergone expansions of charter schools.

But by Thursday, most of those worries among School Board members appear largely relieved, at least for now.

Superintendent Warren Drake noted the school system has several charter schools to oversee, with some performing well but others less so.

“We have some charters that need to be looked at, like all of our schools do,” Drake explained.

But the portfolio manager will do more than that.

“This is a position that will help every school,” Drake added.

The board voted 8-0 to approve the position.

Board member Dawn Collins, who abstained, said she feels better about the job after talking with district officials, but she still wants more clarity about a part of the job description that calls for the new administrator to align “portfolio management initiatives to the district’s strategic plan.”

Board member Vereta Lee said she hopes this new manager will make sure charter schools follow the same rules as traditional public schools.

“In my experience, they just do what they want to do and they think it’s OK,” Lee said.

Board member Jill Dyason said she likes the portfolio manager position so much that she says it should be expanded.

“I hope we will use this model to review our traditional schools as well,” Dyason said.

Caroline Roemer, executive director of the Louisiana Public Charter Schools Association, said the fears expressed about this job have been misplaced.

“It is really an opportunity for you as a district to put in some standards to ensure that the charters you have are operating at the quality you want,” she said.

Roemer said this administrator also should establish a process that “would remove some of the politics that come with (charter) renewals and non-renewals.”

The portfolio manager was one piece of an application filed by the school system for a federally funded school improvement grant. The state approved the grant in June, awarding the school system $2.2 million, including money for the portfolio manager position. The grant is meant to fund improvements to the school system, particularly the district’s 32 schools that have D and F letter grades on a state assessment of academic performance.

The portfolio manager, once hired, will deal most directly with the 10 district-authorized charter schools, serving as a “liaison and point of contact.”

Other duties involve work on the application and renewal process for charter schools, conducting annual reviews, publishing an annual school report, sharing best practices with charter schools, and analyzing the district “to ensure high quality seats across district schools.”

The job description calls for someone with a master’s degree or higher in educational leadership, plus at least five years in teaching and instructional supervision.

Pay for the position has yet to be determined but the grant comes with $95,000 for the job. After subtracting the cost of benefits, that means a salary somewhere north of $60,000 a year. The federal grant is expected to fund the position for at least three years.

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.