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Two of five candidates for Lycée CEO withdraw, committee plans to reopen search

Two of five candidates for Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans charter school’s top administrative post withdrew their names from consideration Monday afternoon.

The news came just prior to the board’s 3:30 p.m. meeting, during which they planned to interview Elizabeth Chaponot, Jaimme Poole and Theresa Picciano.

Chapnot, head of school at Lycée International de la Los Angeles, and Poole, principal of Rich Central High School in Olympia Fields, Ill., both took their names out of the mix.

Picciano, who went ahead with her interview Monday, is assistant principal at Intermediate School 347 in New York City.

She answered the committee’s questions during executive session, the second such private meeting held for the purpose of interviewing candidates.

The meeting was held at the office of management consultant Jeremy Hunnewell, who was brought in by the state to help the struggling charter school.

In its second year, Lycée has already gone through two CEOs. The committee was created as a result of Hunnewell’s recommendation to overhaul both the school’s board and administration.

Member Carol Asher said the committee met at Hunnewell’s office to avoid a conflict with the end of the school day — which lets out the same time the meeting was scheduled to start.

Lycée’s classrooms have slatted interior windows, hardly offering a quiet place to interview as the rooms don’t block out school sounds or custodial work, Asher said. Hunnewell’s conference room made for a much calmer environment with a large wall-mounted screen to boot. Committee member Nicole Boudreaux joined the meeting by video conference.

Two parents, students in tow, were present at the meeting, but waited in a conference room a few doors down, as the majority of the hour and 30 minute meeting was held in executive session.

Though state law does allow for such an interview to be held behind closed doors, it does not require it.

McClure said the interviews were held in a closed session “to protect the confidentiality of people in the interview process.”

Asher said the candidates will also be interviewed in a public setting, which Hunnewell has tentatively set for May 8.

“This is more of a vetting to get to that point,” Asher told The Lens after the meeting.

McClure said Hunnewell’s team aims to create a balance between public and private vetting in the interview process for the school’s CEO. She said that interviewing the candidates privately removes the process from school politics. Finalists will eventually interview before the school’s stakeholders.

McClure said the interviewees now all have to complete assignments related to school leadership, due April 26.

She said the committee will tentatively meet May 2 to “assess the projects, assess how the interviews went and then invite a candidate or candidates into town to do a full length interview.”

In case the committee does not recommend a candidate — or the board does not accept any of the committee’s recommendations — McClure favored opening the process again immediately.

Applications will be due May 13, the same day as the next board meeting.

“That way if we have a vote and we have an excellent candidate which is invited by the board to join the school-then that’s terrific,” McClure said, “And if we don’t, we have a whole pile of people to go to the very next day to begin again.”

Alison Schmitt, who works for Hunnewell, asked McClure if she should reach out to the remaining applicants. Asher said committee members would re-examine their notes and possibly interview some of the prior applicants.

“We will see after we get to the May 13 deadline,” said McClure.

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