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Interim CEO tapped to lead troubled Lycée Français charter

Parents at the troubled Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans charter school on Monday met the woman temporarily charged with leading the school out of a rocky period.

Gisele Schexnider introduced herself as the new academic director to parents during their regular parent teacher organization’s meeting Monday night and said she would be serving as the school’s interim CEO.

Schexnider was hired Nov. 30, a week after former school director and CEO Jean-Jacques Grandiere resigned, according to the chairman of the school’s governing board.

“I know I have several fires to put out,” Schexnider told parents during the PTO meeting.

Board chairman Jean Montes sent a memo to parents on Nov. 24 stating that he and fellow member Dan Henderson would be “filling in” for Grandiere during the transition and that they planned to hire someone for the vacant academic director position soon.

Though the board typically must publicly vote to hire a new CEO, Montes said in an email to The Lens on Wednesday that he was forced to make this decision without immediate board approval. He said Schexnider signed a letter of agreement and began working that same day. The last time the board met was Nov. 12, the week before Grandiere resigned.

“Because of the extraordinary circumstances,” Montes wrote to The Lens, “I had to make the decision to put in place an interim school leader … Such a decision will be up for ratification at the next board meeting.”

The board is expected to meet Monday.

The Lens was unable to contact Schexnider. She has recently been employed as a French teacher at Uptown’s Louise S. McGehee School, according to the private school’s website.

Though Montes and Henderson said they would be filling in for Grandiere in the interim, the board did not vote to take that action either.

“There is no need for one,” Montes wrote in a separate email Wednesday. “As chairman it my responsibility to step up and take care of the organization as needed and as listed in my job description. However I asked a fellow board member to join me so we could share the load in this sudden emergency situation.”

Lycée’s charter states that all hiring will be done by the principal — which in this case is known as the “CEO” — but in the absence of a principal it is unclear to whom hiring decisions fall.

Lycée parent Eva Raines said she was excited about the news that Schexnider has come aboard and isn’t troubled by board members’ actions.

“I don’t pretend to understand the nuances of the board and what roles exactly they have,” said Raines, whose son is in kindergarten there. “I defer to them.”

Raines said she came to know Schexnider at McGehee, where her daughter is in the fourth grade and previously had Schexnider as a teacher.

In only its second year of operation, Lycée Français has endured the resignations of two school leaders and just two of its original nine members remain on the board. Last month, the board voted to cut $200,000 from its budget after learning of a $85,000 deficit.

In its two years the school has also more than doubled in size, with 119 students last fall, according to the state Department of Education, and 341 enrolled currently, according to a school official.

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