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Committee Formed to Consolidate New Orleans School Efforts

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The state took over many New Orleans public schools after Hurricane Katrina and still runs them. The Orleans Parish School Board still runs a few and still others are run as independent charters. Now, a committee has been formed to seek ways in which the School Board, the state and the network of charters can consolidate services and cut costs.

The committee, chaired by Tulane President Scott Cowen and Dan Packer, the retired president of Entergy New Orleans, is made up of several community power players. Its creation comes in the wake of some high-profile spats between the different school systems, including a $41 million financial dispute between the state Recovery School District and the School Board that dragged on for months before it was resolved earlier in March.

Cowen said the decentralization produced by the storm has helped the schools in many ways, but that it has also "hampered communication and cooperation between schools," particularly in financing and facilities issues.

This committee is "our chance to show the citizens of New Orleans and, indeed, the country, that we are committed to working together," Cowen said this week.

State Superintendent Paul Pastorek, who put together the committee, said he expects it to look at consolidating transportation, food service and athletic programs of the School Board and the recovery district schools. He also charged it with leading a campaign to renew four school property tax levies on the July ballot.

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