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Lycée committee to interview six more board member applicants

Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans charter school representatives have selected six more people they want to interview for their board of directors.

The candidates include two CPAs, a retired school administrator, an architect, an engineer and a finance and real estate expert.

The school’s nominating committee chose the prospects Tuesday in its second attempt to find enough board member candidates who can pass muster with the board.

Earlier this month, the full board approved five first-round picks brought to them by the committee. But that number wasn’t enough to fill the seven seats Lycée is require to have by state law — and it’s well short of the 11 maximum board members Lycée is allowed to have according to its bylaws.

Though the committee originally recommended six finalists for board approval, the full board veered from that recommendation on April 8, throwing out applicant Mary Jacobs Jones because of her ties to a former Lycée administrator.

The addition of those five new board members brought the current board to 10, but that count will end June 30, when the five old members are expected to resign their positions.

In the meantime, the newly appointed five will undoubtedly affect the final vote: while the original five may be voting on their replacements, the new members will be eyeing their future associates.

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, committee members reviewed applications and resumes from 22 people. After discussing the finalists in an open meeting, they voted to interview:

Courtney Garrett, director of finance at Health Data Specialists LLC

  • Ann Meese, both a former principal and superintendent
  • Ava Alltmont, project manager with Trapolin-Peer Architects
  • Margaret Bell, auditor at Bruno and Tervalon CPAs
  • Tessa Jackson- Gulf Coast investment officer for AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust
  • Mari-Kate McEntee, process engineer for ExxonMobil

All five committee members listed Garrett, Meese, Alltmont and Bell when they revealed their lists by all writing on the classroom’s chalkboard at the same time. Both McEntee and Jackson were listed by a few members, and the two were added to the slate after discussion.

The process stood in contrast to how the first-round candidates were chosen, when the board’s management consultant narrowed the pool of candidates for the committee prior to the public meeting. In that case, Jeremy Hunnewell of EMH Strategy said he’d asked the committee members to rank their top picks and share them with him in phone calls and emails. Then, Hunnewell devised a system that waived the most popular candidates forward, without them ever being discussed in open meeting.

The push to replace the current board is part of a school-wide leadership overhaul that Hunnewell recommended after he was called in to help the embattled school at state leaders’ request.

A handful of parents attended Tuesday’s meeting.

Before choosing those six, the committee entertained a motion that included a seventh person — certified public accountant Don Wheat — in the mix. But both committee members and a handful parents in the room said they were concerned about Wheat’s previous work with the school’s current director of finance and operations, Julianne Ruocco.

“I am specifically interested in Lycée Francais as one of my former employees/friends is the finance director,” Wheat wrote on his application for a board position.

“I’d like to interview him,” said Catherine MacPhaille, the only current board member who serves on the nomination committee. “I’d like to flesh out that issue.”

Though member Jeff Teague initially agreed, other members were concerned.

Member Nancy Shoemaker said if there had already been a problem with Jones in round one because of her personal relationship with someone affiliated with the school, then it may be best to avoid the issue.

Jones worked with Lycée’s former school leader, Jean-Jacques Grandiere, in San Francisco in addition to later renting him a room at her home in New Orleans.

On Tuesday, committee members Maggie Runyan-Shefa and Robert Bell shared Shoemaker’s concerns. With that in mind, the board decided to remove Wheat from consideration.

The committee plans to hold interviews on May 6 and 7 and to bring recommendations to the May 13 board meeting.

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