The acting chief executive officer of Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orleans charter school was previously banned from another charter school’s campus for threatening a student, records show.
Gisele Schexnider was a parent of an Audubon Charter School student in January 2010 when, according to school records, she arrived at a teacher’s classroom, pointed to someone else’s child and said she would “see him after school.”
The incident prompted Audubon’s Assistant Principal Dawn Collins to write a letter to Schexnider prohibiting her from stepping foot on the campus.
“This behavior was inappropriate and is considered a threat,” Collins wrote. “Audubon does not allow parents to investigate alleged incidents by speaking with students without the presence or permission of parents.”
Collins wrote that Schexnider refused to apologize to the child or his parents during a conference at the school a few days later. “Your threatening behavior and recalcitrant attitude poses a threat to our school,” Collins wrote.
Schexnider was hired to lead Lycée, a French curriculum school, on Nov. 30, following the sudden departure of former Chief Executive Officer Jean-Jacques Grandiere. In addition to her responsibilities leading the school on an interim basis, Schexnider was named academic director.
Schexnider did not respond to The Lens’ emailed questions or a phone call regarding the Audubon incident.
The Lens obtained the incident report from Audubon Charter as part of a public records request. It is partly redacted, Audubon principal Janice Dupuy said, to protect confidential student information. The report does not make clear exactly what Schexnider’s disagreement with the student entailed.
Some Lycée parents have complained they know little about Schexnider’s qualifications for the position, even going so far as to write state Education Superintendent John White about their concern.
Lycée board member Catherine MacPhaille called Schexnider “eminently qualified” for the academic director post. But for nearly two months since Lycée’s board president said he tapped Schexnider to lead the school, neither Schexnider nor school officials had publicly released any documentation containing her professional qualifications, despite requests by parents and The Lens.
A group of parents who petitioned the board about their school governance complaints even included the matter in its detailed list of concerns earlier this month.
On Friday, that changed.
According to a resume that an attorney for Lycée’s board sent to The Lens on Jan. 25 — more than six weeks after The Lens first formally requested it — Schexnider’s experience teaching French in the United States spans about 10 years.
She was an “interim teacher” at Norfolk Collegiate School in Virginia and a French teacher for adults until 2005, according to her resume. For nine months following Hurricane Katrina, she filled in as interim director of the Alliance Français de la Nouvelle-Orleans, where an official told The Lens she now serves on the advisory board.
In August 2005, her resume says, she taught at International School of Louisiana. And for more than three years from January 2006 to August 2009, it says, Schexnider taught at University of New Orleans as a professor and assistant professor. An official at UNO would not confirm her employment there unless The Lens provided her Social Security number.
Prior to joining Lycée in an administrative position in November, Schexnider was in her fifth year teaching French at Louise McGehee School for Girls Uptown.
Schexnider’s resume, written almost entirely in French, does not indicate she has had administrative experience in education.
Robert Rachal, attorney for a coalition of Lycée parents calling themselves the Rebuilding Trust Work Group — a group that detailed their concerns about school management in an eight-page memo to the board on Jan. 10 — said Tuesday that he hadn’t yet seen the resume. But he said his clients have long worried about Schexnider’s credentials.
“Our biggest concern is whether she has the training, knowledge, and experience to be an academic director for a school that teaches the French national curriculum,” Rachal said.
Schexnider’s resume also does not say where she was educated. It states that she received a master’s degree in linguistics in 2009, but it does not say from where. A Times-Picayune article from May 16, 2008, lists a “Gisele Goldberg Schexnider” as among a group of master of arts graduates from UNO’s College of Liberal Arts who were celebrating their degrees in a commencement ceremony that day.
Rachal said news of the Audubon incident raises questions about the level of screening Schexnider underwent prior to being hired. Critics of her appointment complained that the position wasn’t advertised before Schexnider was named to fill the seat.
“It definitely causes concern that [the Audubon incident] wasn’t vetted and discussed when she was originally hired,” Rachal said. “That’s not a good scenario.”
Though Schexnider did not answer an email last week inquiring about the incident at Audubon, The Lens did receive a response to the email from attorney Jaimme Collins of Adams and Reese LLC. Collins did not address any of The Lens’ questions regarding Schexnider being banned from campus, but she adid say her firm would be facilitating any public records requests for Lycée.
Despite Rachal’s client’s concerns, Schexnider’s arrival at Lycée has been lauded by others in the school community. Sixty-two supporters’ names were attached to a memo that credited Schexnider for improving communication and meeting regularly with parents. And others who are involved in the school sent their own signed memos, which were also forwarded to the board.
In just its second year, the 340-student Lycée has struggled to retain leaders, enduring the sudden resignations of two principals. Just two of its original nine members remain on the board – and those two are under fire from Rachal’s clients. The board in November voted to cut $200,000 from its budget after learning of an $85,000 deficit. In December, a fired special education teacher sued the school as well as board President Jean Montes and board member Paige Saleun, alleging character defamation after the police were called and parents notified.
Amid those struggles, White, the state’s top education chief, recruited the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools to help fix Lycée’s leadership woes. The organization is contracting with EMH, a management consulting firm, to help find a permanent CEO.
Caroline Roemer Shirley, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, said she was unaware of the Audubon incident, but said it’s something Lycée’s board should look into. As to Schexnider’s qualifications, she said lack of administrative experience isn’t always a negative.
“When you look across charter schools, you’ll find that school leaders have a variety of skill sets and experiences,” she said. “Usually, if the school leader doesn’t have that skill set, someone else on the team does because it’s a critical part of the work.”
The school currently serves students in pre-kindergarten through second grade at two campuses — Uptown at Patton and State Streets and in the Broadmoor section of S. Claiborne Avenue. School leaders aspire to eventually expand the school to the 12th grade.
Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that Gisele Schexnider serves on the board of directors for Alliance Français de la Nouvelle-Orleans. An official there said she is on the organization’s advisory board.