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Lycée parents ask state education chief to investigate school’s board

A group of parents from Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orleans charter school have asked the state’s public education chief to investigate its board’s actions regarding recent hiring and firing decisions, including the manner in which it hired its interim chief executive officer.

State schools superintendent John White last month praised Lycée’s board for hiring Gisele Schexnider, whom he described as “an experienced academic director,” and offered his help as the 340-student school seeks to find a permanent CEO.

Schexnider, whom the charter school board hired and named its interim CEO with little public discussion, is a former teacher at Louise S. McGehee School, according to the private school’s website. But neither Lycée board chairman Jean Montes nor Schexnider have responded to The Lens’ numerous requests in the last month for public records outlining her professional experience.

In a Dec. 26 letter to White, the parents say that while they hope Schexnider will develop into a good leader, they have no basis to judge her qualifications for the position. The letter had the return address of parent Amy George-Hirons and included signatures of about 13 other parents of students at Lycée.

“Her resume has not been shared with the public,” reads the letter, which was made available to The Lens by the Louisiana Department of Education in accordance with public records laws. “By her own admission, she has never worked within the construct of the French curriculum, and she has never been in a supervisory position over teachers.”

The letter urges White to investigate the “crisis of confidence” in the board by the school’s teachers and parents.

“The circumstances surrounding the hiring of Ms. Schexnider are but one example of the Board’s lack of professionalism in terms of hiring, firing and staffing retention procedures,” the letter says, “and we would like you investigate this area in a broader context.”

In an emailed response a day later, White told George-Hirons that he expects to receive “additional recommendations regarding the board and leadership in the school” from Jeremy Hunnewell, a management consultant who, at White’s request, will work with the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools to look into Lycée’s operations.

“I agree with you,” White wrote to George-Hirons, “that there are issues with the school’s operations that go beyond the appointment of one person and have asked that such issues be detailed for me as part of the consultant’s report.”

Lycée, a French-immersion school in its second year, has two campuses in Uptown and Broadmoor. It currently serves students in prekindergarten through second grade with the hope of eventually expanding up to the 12th grade. Despite rapid enrollment growth, it has struggled to retain consistent leadership.

Two school leaders, including Lycée’s founding CEO, have resigned. Just two of its original nine board members remain. In November, the board voted to cut $200,000 from its budget after learning of an $85,000 deficit. Last month, a former special education teacher filed a character defamation lawsuit in which she alleged that police were unnecessarily called to force her from the campus when she was fired.


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About Rebecca Catalanello

Rebecca Catalanello edits the Charter School Reporting Corps. A New Orleans native and graduate of Benjamin Franklin High School, Catalanello spent much of her 15-year newspaper career covering K-12 education. For nine years prior to joining The Lens, she worked at the St. Petersburg Times (now called the Tampa Bay Times), where she wrote about school boards, homeschoolers, crime, state politics and virtual education, among other things. She helped cover Hurricane Katrina for the Times in 2005 and, in subsequent years, wrote from her hometown about New Orleanians’ efforts to rebuild. She can be reached at (504) 315-5163.

  • kally

    Way to go Lycee parents!!!!! You deserve to know these things and so do your great teachers.

  • Mathidle

    If you make peaceful change impossible then you make forced change inevitable.

    This is what happens when you ignore legitimate parental concerns. The ones with brains and morals actually fight back.

  • creole65

    It’s about time that someone finally has the balls to stand up and do something. But this school will not succeed until the last two original board members are gone. They will never resign on their own and since each board member was hand picked to do their bidding these individuals will continue on their path of destroying which they swear is what they wish to preserve.

  • Disillusioned

    Oh, you two naughty board members. If the best interest of the school is what you have in mind, then you should be resigning from the board immediately. If you’re the gutless, tyrannic, power-trip jackasses you appear to be, by all means, please continue to drag us all under the bus.

  • creole 65

    These naughty board members will never resign. What would they do if they had no teachers or other Board Members to conspire against. I’m certain they wouldn’t dedicate themselves to the education and well being of the children. They have survived only because because they hand picked power hungry ,ego tripping, people who have nothing better to do then call unnecessary meetings many at bars for emergency meetings concerning the school. I often wondered how these board members could make dececions about other peoples children while drinking alcohol and leaving their children with the Nanny.

  • It is now clear that the whole LFNO board must step down. No one on the this board has clean hands. Each board member has gone along with the poor decision making of a few. Instead of saying”no” to the outrageous, and
    vindictive reign of terror, these board members have enabled unprofessional and contemptible behavior by the board’s leadership. Either these folks are bordering on cowardice or they lack the good judgement that is necessary to engage in best board practices to govern a school.

  • The children learn from us too

    Perhaps the Board members should go, but publicly hateful characterizations like Creole65 is making only hurt the school’s chances of survival. Let’s have a lively debate to solve the issue while setting an example in our behavior that we would be proud for our children to witness.