Southern alum sues board over refusal to extend Llorens contract _lowres

James Llorens

James Llorens, former chancellor of Southern University’s Baton Rouge campus, has been appointed president of the proposed Cristo Rey Baton Rouge High School.

The news was announced Tuesday jointly by the school’s organizers in Baton Rouge as well as the nonprofit group, New Schools for Baton Rouge, which is providing startup money for the proposed private Catholic high school.

Cristo Rey Baton Rouge High School is aiming to start operating in fall 2016 and would join a network of Cristo Rey private schools that numbers 28 in 26 cities. It would be the first in Louisiana.

Cristo Rey schools take students living in poverty and has them work in white-collar jobs once a week while at the same time taking college prep courses.

Cristo Rey Baton Rouge plans to pay for its students’ tuition through money raised from the companies that hire its students, Louisiana’s tuition donation rebate program and additional fundraising. Cristo Rey has dropped plans to use the state’s private school voucher program. Llorens said that students will also pay a small tuition, about $1,000 a year.

Llorens has been involved with the proposed school since its inception, including leading up a feasibility study to see if there are enough employers willing to hire students to make the school financially viable.

Llorens said Tuesday the feasibility study will conclude in mid-May, and the school’s organizers will formally apply to the Cristo Rey network for permission to start the school in late May. Of the 35 commitments needed, they have 10 letters of intent and another 15 or so verbal commitments and are still trying to nail down the rest. Llorens said he is sure they will reach the goal of 35 by mid-May.

In becoming the school’s president, Llorens is stepping down from the school’s board of directors.

Llorens said that at Cristo Rey schools the president is at the top of the organizational chart. Beneath the president is the school principal — a search is underway to fill that job — and a “corporate work-study coordinator” who will work with the companies that hire Cristo Rey students, he said.

In February, the Southern University Board of Supervisors narrowly voted to not renew Llorens contract as chancellor, a post he took in July 2011. His three-year contract ended June 30.

The board’s decision to let Llorens walk was met with an outcry from Llorens’ supporters and students who organized a rally, circulated an online petition and staged a sit-in to support the chancellor.

The campus has been on shaky financial footing for the past several years because of falling enrollment and year-after-year state budget cuts to higher education.

Llorens has acknowledged the tough times of recent, but pointed to signs of improvement during his tenure, including a more than 40 percent increase in the fall 2013 incoming class size.

Editor’s note: This story was changed after publication to correct information about the expected tuition for this school.