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Proposal: All Lycée board members must reapply if they want to stay past June

Parents and teachers who want new governance at the embattled Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans charter school may soon have their wishes granted.

A committee of people charged by Lycée’s board to make change in the school’s governance structure are recommending all board members’ terms expire on June 30.

That means all five existing board members will be forced to reapply for their seats if they want to stay. This would include founding board members like Paige Saleun, who has said her term does not expire until 2014.

It’s one of a host of changes to Lycée’s board structure that a committee composed of two board members, a state official, an attorney, a charter schools advocate and a consultant outlined during a Thursday night meeting while about 20 people looked on.

For months, Lycée’s governance has been a flashpoint for some parents and teachers who worry the two-year-old school’s strengths are at risk of being lost amid leadership turmoil. After Lycee’s second chief executive resigned in November, some of the complaints fell on the ears of state Superintendent John White, who intervened in December and asked the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools to step in and help.

Now, Louisiana Department of Education official Raphael Gang, Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools head Caroline Roemer Shirley, and EMH Strategies Consultant Jeremy Hunnewell all sit on the board’s governance committee as ex-officio members. Lee Reid, a local attorney who has represented several charters in past year, and board members Jacqueline Simon and board member Catherine MacPhaille, join them.

Reid told those gathered that his group is recommending that a separate five-person committee, which he called a nominating committee, find new board member candidates.

If Lycée’s board approves, Jeff Teague, Nancy Shoemaker, Robert Bell, Maggie Runyan-Shefa, and MacPhaille will screen and recommend new board members to Lycée’s board by April 8, he said.

Teague is a parent of two children at Lycée, and also serves as the Lycée PTO treasurer. Shoemaker is a governance consultant and nonprofit facilitator. Bell, a Loyola professor, has a son at Lycée. And Runyan-Shefa serves as chief schools officer for a nonprofit charter school incubator called New Schools for New Orleans.

The group would work with the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools to help find candidates. Roemer Shirley said Thursday she’s already heard from nine people who are interested in becoming Lycée board members.

The five-person nominating team will also work to quickly fill vacancies left last month by departing members Joel Vilmenay and Hema Banangada, they said. Those new members will serve out Vilmenay and Banangada’s terms, and will step down June 30 along with all other existing board members, Reid said.

Finally, Reid recommended changing the bylaws so that the new board will have staggered terms for up to 11 members:

  • Three board seats would go to members serving one-year terms.
  • Three seats would go to members serving two-year terms.
  • Three seats would go to members serving three-year terms.
  • And if two more seats are added to the board, one seat shall serve a three year term and the other a two year term.

Lycée’s board bylaws allow for a minimum of five board members, despite a state policy requiring boards to have at least seven members. Gang said Thursday that the state is aware of Lycée’s situation, and recognizes that the board is moving to correct the problem.

“Boards from time to time lose members, it’s a natural part of the process,” he said. The state isn’t looking for them to, “in 10 seconds, pick the first guy that walks through the door” for board membership, he said.

Reid said he left the minimum number in so that the current five-member board doesn’t violate its own bylaws.

Some at the meeting seemed concerned with the possibility of current board members reclaiming their position.

“Can the current board be elected to a second term, according to that?” asked parent Darren Beltz.

Reid said that that would be up to the nominating committee. But he also said he hadn’t heard that any members wished to apply.

In January, a group of parents called on two founding board members — chairman Jean Montes and member Paige Saleun — to either resign or recuse themselves because they were named in a lawsuit by a former Lycée teacher. Under the current bylaws, Saleun has said, her term would not be up until 2014.

The purpose of ending term limits, Gang said Thursday, is to give everyone “a clean slate.”

“It’s basically like we’re hitting the reset button and we’re starting from zero,” he said.

Also Thursday, Hunnewell convened the first meeting of his hand-selected CEO search committee.

The members: Nicole Boudreaux, a board member for the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana; Kelly McClure, a national director for Leading Educators; and Carol Asher, a development and fundraising.

The committee is expected to recommend two or more names for the post by May 1. And Lycée’s board will have final say on who would become the school’s next permanent leader, with a vote planned by May 13.

Two CEOs have resigned from Lycée in the past year. In November, the board hired an interim leader to head the 340-student campus.

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that Jean Montes’ term on Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans charter board of directors is due to expire in 2014. The language of the board’s bylaws is less clear on this point. This story has been changed to reflect that ambiguity.

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About 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 reporting on charter school transparency and governance. In 2012, she was part of a team that received a National Edward R. Murrow Award for their work following a New Orleans family's recovery after Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Edna Karr Secondary School in Algiers, and she obtained her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. She can be reached at (504) 575-8191.

  • Cindy

    With a new board and CEO all picked by the State–will this be a French School? Will this school stay with the French curriculum? Or will it go to Louisiana curriculum translated into French? This will be interesting to see…..
    I still wonder why this school gets special treatment by the State? Is it because of the type of students that fill the seats?
    If the State took this much interest in all of the failing schools in New Orleans our school system would be the best in the country and our crime rates would drop!!! I wonder if the State will use this as a model to help other public schools in the area?

  • Yoy Lord

    Why ‘O Why is how I have started each of my recent posts. However, today in answer to Cindy, I can say “WHITE ‘O WHITE” -and I do not just mean John White.

    Raphael Gang recently said: “It’s basically like we’re
    hitting the reset button and we’re starting from zero.” Is this just empty rhetoric or is it a pledge
    to return to the commitment upon which the Lycee charter was granted which
    included the commitment to the “at risk” and minority community? We shall see.

    Why ‘O Why is there a Public school in New Orleans whose
    administration, faculty and student enrollment does not resemble the other
    Public schools in the city and the state?

  • The answer may be in who sends their children to Lycee, for instance Rep. Cameron Henry, Una Anderson. . . .

  • frenchfriend

    New Board, New CEO equals Hope that this will turn into a good HONORABLE public school. A good school for ALL kids, not just their “kind” of people, White people. Hopefully the parents that helped expose this debacle will demand that this new Board and CEO honor its committment to Mcmillian head start, the school that was used to allow this charter to exist. The incoming board members may want to start all over with the other French schools in town and apologize for their former board’s past actions, same to mcmillian, and the same to the French Community for putting them through such an ordeal. Honarable schools do not have the reputation of being inclusive and racists. I challenge the parents to fix this too.

  • nickelndime

    Lee C. Reid’s (Adams and Reese LLP) name has resurfaced – finally ($380 – 500/hr.)! The “ultimate” fox in the henhouse. Red Flag! New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO)! Another Red Flag! Empty rhetoric at big legal fees. This is much bigger than Lycee. That’s public money in the billions, folks. Lee has the inside line to the State Department, LDOE, BESE, Bendily, Gang, Dobard, White, Roemer Shirley, Hunnewell… Lee had the inside line to the OPSB too, when he contributed heavily to Moran’s re-election campaign and Robichaux. Ouch! – so she lost out on the 3rd round. When Lee speaks, they all listen (Moton- testing irregularities- OPSB; Einstein-lease renewal-takeover of Intercultural Charter School- $1,000,000 federal grant money and $800,000 for busing from New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO). Yes, it is that corrupt!

  • nickelndime

    Oh yeah! Just remember what I said in previous posts about Reid and Adams and Reese LLP manipulating bylaws. Makes it easier for boards in the future to appear what they doing appear “legal,” i.e., fly under the radar!

  • nickelndime

    “Finally, Reid recommended changing the bylaws so that the new board…” SEE WHAT I MEAN!

  • Maruchie

    Comments on diversity are not true. Read the report on the school’s diversity back in November. Lycee actually fares well. Although as one parent said: “They are not the right kind of black. They’re not my people.” Is this what you mean? And, do you propose forcing “the right people” to apply?

    Folks, it’s called freedom. Parents are free to apply (or not apply) to Lycee.

    And, on the subject of freedom and choice, people were also free to stay at Audubon and EB, but they chose to leave and come to the Lycee. If anyone needs to apologize, it’s Audubon, which made life so unpleasant for so many parents that they fled in droves.

  • frenchfriend

    Diversity comments above are very true. Diversity by race, not “at risk” ,although many question the actual “at risk” numbers at lycee. The truth will come out soon enough.
    Yes, freedom to choose schools, lets think about that. The grass is not always greener is it? This must be why the applications are coming in “droves” from lycee back to Audubon including many new lycee families who were never at audubon as well. Your famous two board members who have caused the entire school to be taken over by the state have applications to come back. The board failed the school period.

  • Nola

    It is amazing that you bring Audubon into this discussion – Audubon is not, nor has it ever been a part of the problem at Lycee. Maybe you should talk to some of the parents that are trying to get into Audubon (including some that left Audubon to go to Lycee). You should also remember that there were lots of parents that left Audubon when the school board moved them to trailers in Gentilly to renovate their Building on Broadway. Guess the trailers in Gentilly don’t look so bad any more…….

  • nickelndime

    Discrimination by any means or label is still discrimination – is it not? e.g., primary language, secondary language, the ability to learn a second language, bilingualism, IQ, dual citizenship, at-risk, free/reduced lunch, parental income, race, minority/non-minority…This is public money, folks. The ideal is to help students achieve their maximum potential – intellectually, academically, physically, culturally, etc. If individuals who can pay for private education for their children choose instead to use public education (Audubon, Lusher, NOCCA, Franklin High…) because they say it is “real” and reflects what their children will be exposed to in the real world, then great, if that is their true motive. But, selective admissions is not equal open admissions and should not have its place in public education. It is inherently unequal and unfair. So, go for it CODOFIL. Your teachers will stay at Lycee. John White will ensure that there is extra money in the budget for CODOFIL (aimed specifically to defuse the Lycee catastrophe – by another name) despite Jindal. I have a feeling that the French think us fools anyway – and maybe we are!

  • frenchfriend

    That or they force Joseph Dunn to reisign for doing the right thing and standing by the teachers of lycee. CODOFIL will hire a new director, at john White’s choosing, and pretend that a few more lives have not been ruined by this school and move on.