At a contentious meeting tonight, Audubon Charter School officials recommended moving the school’s interim CEO into the position permanently, ending an eight-month search. The full governing board could make a final decision at its next meeting, June 4.
The board’s CEO Search Committee voted 5-1, with one abstention,* to keep Latoye Brown as the leader of the two-campus school. Brown did not attend the meeting.
Of the three finalists announced last month, only Brown remains in contention. Randall Brown withdrew April 27 and Rhonda Broussard withdrew May 9. While Broussard was still a finalist, the consulting firm hired by the board to conduct the search, Educational Directions Inc., sent a separate survey for each candidate to staff and parents of the more than 800 students.
The results were as meager as they were sharply divided. And that split was continued at the meeting.
Forty-one people sent back the survey on Broussard, 20 of whom were parents; 37 returned the survey on Brown, 20 of whom were parents, committee member Denise Carpenter said. School operations manager and committee member Alisa Dupre said the small amount of participants was concerning.
Committee member and Benjamin Franklin High School board member** Carlos Zervigon said the responses were much harsher than the feedback given to the Franklin board when it sought a CEO during his time there.
Zervigon said the survey results were an illustration of what happens when you have an open-door environment***. “When you say ‘come one, come all,’ some of the people who come are not constructive people.”
Zervigon said his thoughts when reviewing the survey results were: “I hope anybody who takes this job knows what they’re getting into.”
Some respondents liked Brown’s institutional knowledge and Broussard’s “fresh ideas” and French fluency. Others questioned Brown’s experience with the French program and Broussard’s departure from a network of charter schools in St. Louis.
Members considered reopening the search or making no recommendation.
Zervigon eventually made the motion to recommend Brown, praising her work at the school and her credentials. “She has a master’s in business,” he said. “Most charter schools fail for financial reasons.”
Carpenter said she does not think Brown is ready to lead the school, though she has a lot of potential. She said the board should to re-evaluate what they are looking for because managing two campuses while also running the business side of a school is a challenge. She said she thought it was unnecessary for the committee to make a recommendation with only one candidate left.
Committee member Gregory Thompson, who has a child in the school’s French-immersion program, said Brown’s lack of French proficiency shouldn’t be an important consideration, and he favored appointing her to the permanent position.
Committee member and parent Fred Tombar said he does not want to see the school in another year of instability and that it would be unfair to Brown and the school to keep her on hold as an interim.
But during public comment, parent Scott Saltzman said he was not supportive of simply hiring the remaining candidate. The philosophy should be “my child deserves the best candidate” rather than just taking the person who is the most convenient, he said. He said the best thing for the school would be to restart the search.
Audubon has been without a permanent CEO since its longtime leader, principal Janice Dupuy, retired Sept. 30. The board appointed Brown, who previously was an assistant principal, as the interim leader, effective the next day.
The CEO position was advertised nationally and locally in November. The Search Committee formed in January, and the consultant for the search was hired in February.
By March, the committee had 24 applicants, and they were eventually reduced to six semi-finalists. The three finalists were announced in April.
Voting in favor of recommending Brown were Zervigon, Tombar, Thompson, Dupre and board Chairman Derek Bardell.* Carpenter, who led the search committee, voted against. Daliah Wolfson, a parent appointed to the committee, abstained.
Board Chairman Derek Bardell said the consultant was paid about $40,000, which he said is less than the typical cost of about $60,000.
This CEO Search Committee meeting was postponed from last week after the school failed proper legal notice.
The CEO appointment will be discussed at next FAME board meeting, scheduled for June 4 at 10 a.m. on the Milan Street Campus.
*Correction: The original story incorrectly reported the vote count as 4-2, as well as the list of how each member voted, saying Bardell voted against the motion. In fact, he voted in favor, making the count 5-1, with one abstention.
**Correction: The original story incorrectly reported that Zervigon is a former board member at Benjamin Franklin High School. In fact, he is a current board member.
***Correction: The original story incorrectly reported that Zervigon referred to an open-door admissions policy. In fact, he was referring to the openness of the school generally in asking for input on decisions.