Lycée must keep more of its French teachers, cultural organization says

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The head of the organization that recruits French exchange teachers at Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans is concerned the school isn’t addressing its leadership troubles quickly enough, and the school must retain more of those teachers if the organization is to continue bringing French instructors to the charter school.

Only four of 18 French exchange teachers currently at Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans say they are willing to stay at the charter school next school year, according to the organization that brought them here.

“This unprecedented exodus of more than 75% of a school’s world-class educators clearly indicates that the working environment and culture of the school is not keeping with the mission of the J1 visa to ‘foster global understanding’,” wrote Joseph Dunn, executive director of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, in a Feb. 20 letter to the school’s interim chief.

Lycée must retain 10 of its current French exchange teachers if it wants CODOFIL to place any more teachers at the school, Dunn wrote.

Last week, Lycée’s governing board accepted consultant Jeremy Hunnewell’s recommendations that the school hire a new CEO by April 30, but Dunn wrote that he believes the school leadership changes won’t be fast enough for CODOFIL to “ensure that the teachers are placed in a professional environment that fosters global understanding through educational and cultural exchanges.”

Without assurance that the school can maintain 10 existing teachers, Dunn wrote, the council cannot fulfill its obligations as a visa sponsor. He said that of the 14 who say they are unwilling to stay, five have requested to return to France, seven asked to be transferred to new schools and two are at the end of their visa.

Dunn gave school officials until March 15 to “work aggressively to retain” at least 10 of the teachers. By that same date, he said, the teachers must provide CODOFIL with a written notice of their intent to stay at the school.

“CODOFIL would consider this a good-faith effort by the school to create a stable and appropriate working environment for the French teachers recruited from the French National Ministry of Education,” the letter says.

Gisele Schexnider, Lycée’s interim CEO, declined on Sunday to comment on the letter until after school leaders meet with CODOFIL this week.

With the school’s plan to expand to include third-grade next year and add two more teachers, Dunn’s organization could be charged with finding 16 new hires if 14 leave as he said they have indicated they might.

Dunn wrote that, in the council’s experience, two-thirds of teaching staff must stay “in order to ensure stability and the transfer of expertise and institutional knowledge to incoming teachers.”

The letter does not indicate what would happen if the Lycée administration fails to reach Dunn’s retention requirement.

Though the letter was addressed to Schexnider, Dunn also copied the correspondence to Hunnewell, state Superintendent John White, state Department of Education’s chief of staff in the Office of Portfolio Raphael Gang, French Consul General Jean-Claude Brunet and Lycée board President Jean Montes.

Clarification: CODOFIL is not a “recruiting organization,” as stated in the original headline for this story. The organization does recruit teachers in service of its mission to promote cultural exchange relations between France and Louisiana and to support French immersion programs. But it does other things as well.

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