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Two resign from Lycée board as its focus turns to school leadership

A second Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans board member has resigned, reducing the board to five members, two shy of the seven the state requires.

Joel Vilmenay, president and general manager of WDSU-TV, confirmed his resignation Thursday in a letter to The Lens, saying that his resignation went into effect last week.

“I determined that my ongoing board work with several other organizations in New Orleans and what will be an extensive travel schedule in the coming months will not permit me to devote the time deserved by the Lycee community,” he wrote.

Member Hema Banangada, the board’s treasurer, also resigned in February citing time commitments.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education requires charter school boards to have a minimum of seven members. Also, Lycee’s charter agreement with the Louisiana Department of Education states that its board of directors “shall consist of the number of members required by BESE policy.”

Board President Jean Montes did not return request for comment Thursday, nor did he answer the Lens’ request for a current roster of board members Wednesday.

On Feb. 18, Lycee volunteer Mike Pinkerton told The Lens on Montes’ behalf that Banagada’s treasurer duties were being assumed by board member Catherine MacPhaille, “until the board can select a replacement.”

Vilmenay resigned about a week after he was appointed to the board’s newly formed governance committee, which was created at the recommendation of management consultant Jeremy Hunnewell in order to help recruit new board members to Lycee.

Vilmenay and MacPhaille were the only two voting members Montes appointed to the committee.

According to a timeline Hunnewell recommended — and the board accepted — the governance committee would be bringing recommendations for new board members to Lycee’s next regular meeting, March 11.

With just MacPhaille left as the only voting member of the committee, it’s unclear how that will affect any upcoming board member nominations.

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About Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned to New Orleans in the fall of 2014 after covering education for the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with majors in journalism and social welfare and a concentration in educational policy studies.

  • Eliza

    I have kept quite for years. But I am sick of seeing this school in the news! When will all of their leadersip issues be resolved? What happens to schools when they don’t follow the law? Something is really strange with this school, with BESE, and with this board. Is there anyone that oversees BESE? Who oversees schools? What is happening at this school should be crime. These students are the victims. I can’t believe this has been a great impression on the United States, Louisiana, or New Orleans for these teachers.

  • Eventually this board is going to dwindle down to the three blind mice, who even now refuse to admit that the only solution to this debacle is to save face while they can and resign. A New Beginning is what this school needs with a brand new board.

  • Joy Van Buskirk


    Unfortunately it will take time to resolve the school’s problems. John White decided that the CEO was Lycee’s problem, not the board. I believe that was a faulty decision, but he swooped in and played God without an in depth investigation. I hold him accountable as he is the state superintendent, and he chose to accept half truths. This mess is attributable to the State Department of Education and to BESE. BESE chartered this school, and thereby had the responsibility to oversee this school through the State Department of Education. Not once did a state team visit the school since it opened its doors in August, 2010. A fledgling school is somewhat deemed at risk because of novice leadership. Most Charter boards are not trained before they assume the reigns of a school. That becomes a significant problem when there are no educators serving on some of the charter boards. Why does anyone suppose that in two teachers are required to participate in the charter writing and effort? Several years ago the SDE had an individual by the name of Folwell Dunbar assigned to the charter schools in New Orleans. He was fired because he became a whistle blower reporting some untoward activity transpiring in one of the charter schools. However, Mr. Dunbar could not spend enough time in all the charter schools in NO due to the shear numbers. LFNO is just the tip of the dysfunctional charter iceberg. Due to extremely poor board decision making It is understandable that the news focused on LFNO. Too many problems and no support brought the school to this point. Yes, it is both frustrating and regrettable, but it is what it is.

    I hope that LFNO parents demand that no one serve on the board who has a child attending the school, and that there are least three educators tapped to serve. Without experienced educators, the board might once again experience problems. Although there are some who believe that schools are businesses, I disagree. This board was trying to establish a business model, and look where it got the school – 12 board members have resigned in a span of 18 months, and with good cause. That is a record. If schools are businesses, why not require only those with business credentials write charters?

  • nickelndime

    Absolutely correct, “…the tip of the dysfunctional charter iceberg.” The bigger problem is that there are other charter school boards besides this one (BESE and OPSB) that are not following the rules/law (academically, financially, etc.). Worse yet, they will fade away quietly (after about 5 years) as the State and the OPSB turn a blind eye and casually sweep them under the rug.

  • Eliza

    Thank you all for responding. What can we in the public do to demand more oversight in our schools? Are all those who are supposedly in charge elected officials? I wish they would get their act together. Daily we hear on the news of children turning to extremely violent crimes. I know education is just part of the problem- but if we could “fix” the charter system then maybe we could save some lives. With the public school above what is the likelihood it will be closed and all of these poor children will have to scramble to try to find a new school?