State schools Superintendent John White has taken the unusual step of offering the state’s help to the troubled charter school Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orleans, as it goes about searching for a new leader, according to a letter he sent to the school.

White said he’s helped secure private money to pay for a consulting company, which has already been chosen, to guide the search process.

The school, now in the middle of its second year, has had a woeful beginning – a resignation from its founder, a sudden $85,000 deficit, and a lawsuit from an aggrieved former teacher.

White’s memo, obtained Friday by The Lens, applauds the school for hiring a business manager to rectify that deficit, and for hiring other qualified staff. But White says the school still needs strong leadership, an issue he’s going to help them fix. The Louisiana Public Charter School Association will fund a CEO search for Lycée at White’s request, something organization’s director Caroline Roemer Shirley says they haven’t done before.

Although Shirley, who had been aware of the school’s issues over the past year, had already been looking to help the school, she told White she’d like to train Lycée’s board members, she said. White asked her to help fund a search for a new CEO instead.

“He said, ‘I don’t believe this is a school governance problem. I believe this is a school leadership problem,’ ” Shirley said.

This is the first time the state charter school association has financially supported a school, she said.

White was not immediately available for comment. A spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Education said he was waiting to hear back from him.

Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her...