Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans charter school’s leadership overhaul leapt forward Monday when its board gave the nod to three new members and voted to begin negotiations with recommended chief executive officer candidate Mireille Rabaté.

Mireille Rabaté
Mireille Rabaté Credit: Marta Jewson / The Lens

Two committees spent last week racing to make final recommendations on CEO candidates and board members, knowing committee recommendations don’t always go as planned at the politically embroiled charter school.

About 20 parents sat around lunch tables in the 340-student school’s cafeteria Monday night, a much smaller crowd than past meetings. In its second year, the charter school community has had a tumultuous few months with its second CEO resigning in November and an outside consultant recommending both administrative and board overhaul.

Unlike last month when the board only approved five of six recommended board members, Monday night’s board member recommendations sailed through.

“We’re really excited about these candidates,” said committee chairman Jeff Teague who detailed each of the three recommended candidates.

With a motion on the table to add Courtney Garrett, Tessa Jackson, and Ann Meese, the board called for public comment.

The crowd was silent as everyone panned the room. There was none.

The three were unanimously approved. With only one seat open until July 1 when five current members are expected to resign their seats, the board voted to bring on Garrett immediately upon Teague’s recommendation. The others will join in July — earlier if a seat opens up.

The board then voted to move into executive session to discuss the “characteristics and competency” of Lycée’s potential CEO, Mireille Rabaté — who was recommended with flying colors by the search committee.

“I hope the board sees fit this time around to trust the committee that was put in place by the board,” said parent Charles Varley before members withdrew to a secluded classroom for their closed door meeting.

Parents visited with one another and joked that the meeting had been too easy as they waited for the board to return and vote on Rabaté, who left parents hopeful after a ‘town-hall’ style meeting with them last week.

When the closed classroom door opened after one hour, member Paige Saleun quickly exited and returned to sit at the board table alone and the other eight filed in to join her. Then board chairman Jean Montes called the meeting back to order.

Member Tim Gray motioned to offer Mireille Rabaté the chief position, specifying Montes and member Erin Greenwald would negotiate the contract with the help of managment consultant Jeremy Hunnewell, then seek board approval.

Montes called for a vote among the nine members.

After a chorus of “ayes”, Saleun said she was abstaining from the vote and Montes followed suit. The motion carried 7-0 with the two abstentions.

“I really can’t make a decision on someone I’m not going to be governing,” Saleun said after the meeting when asked about the vote. “I don’t have any reason,” said Montes regarding his abstention.

Parent Darren Beltz said he felt relieved after the meeting and was cautiously optimistic, acknowledging there was negotiating yet to be done. Board member Catherine MacPhaille, who is also a parent, said she was excited and hopeful.

CEO search committee member Kelly McClure was in attendance. She said she was “very excited and looking forward to them putting together a competitive package to get Madame Rabaté here.”

Hunnewell said he did not know what the negotiation timeline would be but he anticipated it would happen “quickly”.

“We need to make sure we can give her a competitive offer,” said Hunnewell, “and we hope she accepts.”

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...