Parents and teachers who want new governance at the embattled Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans charter school may soon have their wishes granted.
A committee of people charged by Lycée’s board to make change in the school’s governance structure are recommending all board members’ terms expire on June 30.
That means all five existing board members will be forced to reapply for their seats if they want to stay. This would include founding board members like Paige Saleun, who has said her term does not expire until 2014.
It’s one of a host of changes to Lycée’s board structure that a committee composed of two board members, a state official, an attorney, a charter schools advocate and a consultant outlined during a Thursday night meeting while about 20 people looked on.
For months, Lycée’s governance has been a flashpoint for some parents and teachers who worry the two-year-old school’s strengths are at risk of being lost amid leadership turmoil. After Lycee’s second chief executive resigned in November, some of the complaints fell on the ears of state Superintendent John White, who intervened in December and asked the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools to step in and help.
Now, Louisiana Department of Education official Raphael Gang, Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools head Caroline Roemer Shirley, and EMH Strategies Consultant Jeremy Hunnewell all sit on the board’s governance committee as ex-officio members. Lee Reid, a local attorney who has represented several charters in past year, and board members Jacqueline Simon and board member Catherine MacPhaille, join them.
Reid told those gathered that his group is recommending that a separate five-person committee, which he called a nominating committee, find new board member candidates.
If Lycée’s board approves, Jeff Teague, Nancy Shoemaker, Robert Bell, Maggie Runyan-Shefa, and MacPhaille will screen and recommend new board members to Lycée’s board by April 8, he said.
Teague is a parent of two children at Lycée, and also serves as the Lycée PTO treasurer. Shoemaker is a governance consultant and nonprofit facilitator. Bell, a Loyola professor, has a son at Lycée. And Runyan-Shefa serves as chief schools officer for a nonprofit charter school incubator called New Schools for New Orleans.
The group would work with the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools to help find candidates. Roemer Shirley said Thursday she’s already heard from nine people who are interested in becoming Lycée board members.
The five-person nominating team will also work to quickly fill vacancies left last month by departing members Joel Vilmenay and Hema Banangada, they said. Those new members will serve out Vilmenay and Banangada’s terms, and will step down June 30 along with all other existing board members, Reid said.
Finally, Reid recommended changing the bylaws so that the new board will have staggered terms for up to 11 members:
- Three board seats would go to members serving one-year terms.
- Three seats would go to members serving two-year terms.
- Three seats would go to members serving three-year terms.
- And if two more seats are added to the board, one seat shall serve a three year term and the other a two year term.
Lycée’s board bylaws allow for a minimum of five board members, despite a state policy requiring boards to have at least seven members. Gang said Thursday that the state is aware of Lycée’s situation, and recognizes that the board is moving to correct the problem.
“Boards from time to time lose members, it’s a natural part of the process,” he said. The state isn’t looking for them to, “in 10 seconds, pick the first guy that walks through the door” for board membership, he said.
Reid said he left the minimum number in so that the current five-member board doesn’t violate its own bylaws.
Some at the meeting seemed concerned with the possibility of current board members reclaiming their position.
“Can the current board be elected to a second term, according to that?” asked parent Darren Beltz.
Reid said that that would be up to the nominating committee. But he also said he hadn’t heard that any members wished to apply.
In January, a group of parents called on two founding board members — chairman Jean Montes and member Paige Saleun — to either resign or recuse themselves because they were named in a lawsuit by a former Lycée teacher. Under the current bylaws, Saleun has said, her term would not be up until 2014.
The purpose of ending term limits, Gang said Thursday, is to give everyone “a clean slate.”
“It’s basically like we’re hitting the reset button and we’re starting from zero,” he said.
Also Thursday, Hunnewell convened the first meeting of his hand-selected CEO search committee.
The members: Nicole Boudreaux, a board member for the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana; Kelly McClure, a national director for Leading Educators; and Carol Asher, a development and fundraising.
The committee is expected to recommend two or more names for the post by May 1. And Lycée’s board will have final say on who would become the school’s next permanent leader, with a vote planned by May 13.
Two CEOs have resigned from Lycée in the past year. In November, the board hired an interim leader to head the 340-student campus.
Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that Jean Montes’ term on Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans charter board of directors is due to expire in 2014. The language of the board’s bylaws is less clear on this point. This story has been changed to reflect that ambiguity.