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Rabaté declines Lycée CEO job, calling it ‘one of the most difficult decisions’ of her life

Just a week after Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans board members voted to extend its top job offer to Mireille Rabaté, the San Francisco school administrator has turned them down.

Mireille Rabaté

Marta Jewson / The Lens

Mireille Rabaté

Rabaté, the lone in-person interviewee for the school’s CEO position, sent an email Monday night declining the job and calling it “one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make.”

Board chairman Jean Montes and member Erin Greenwald should have received the email by Tuesday, according to a forwarded copy of the message which Rabaté shared with The Lens.

Subject: Thank you

Date: Mon, 20 May 2013 22:18:52 -0400

Dear Dr. Montes, Dear Erin,

It has been a difficult couple of days: I examined your generous offer and tried to imagine all the implications of my decision on my life, including professional as well as personal aspects. It has been one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make. Please, rest assured that I did not make it lightly.

After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that, at this time, I must regretfully decline your offer to become the next CEO of Lycee Francais de la Nouvelle Orleans. I am extremely grateful to you, the Search Committee, the members of the Board, and the whole community of the school for giving me the opportunity to discover the school and for the warm welcome during my visit and after: this is a wonderful project for a fantastic community, and I wish you the very best of luck and success with it.

Please extend my sincere thank you to all those involved.

Sincerely yours,

Mireille Rabate

Montes and Greenwald, who were selected to negotiate employment terms with Rabaté, could not be reached Tuesday to comment on her decision.

On May 13, Greenwald was among the seven who voted in favor of extending an offer to Rabaté. Montes and board member Paige Saleun abstained from the vote.

Even with rumors about Rabaté’s decision circulating throughout the day Tuesday, parent Darren Beltz said he had remained hopeful.

“I think we’re at a point where we really need a strong leader and we need it now,” said Beltz, whose son attends Lycée, “so that’s greatly disappointing.”

Beltz said he assumed the search committee would continue vetting applicants. “My concern is that we’re at a point now where we really need decisions to be made for the planning of next year.”

Lycée is ending its second school year under the leadership of an interim CEO who was hired in November. Gisele Schexnider joined the school last fall following the resignation of school leader Jean-Jacques Grandiere, the second chief to leave the school in a matter of months.

The 340-student Lycée managed to retain a number of French exchange teachers who this Spring were poised to leave at the end of the school year unless there was a change in the school’s leadership. In March, State Superintendent John White personally assured them at the time that new leadership was coming — and soon.

It’s unclear what will happen now.

As of Tuesday night, Beltz said it didn’t appear that parents had been officially notified by school leaders that Rabaté had declined.

Neither management consultant Jeremy Hunnewell, who has been steering the school’s search, nor CEO search committee member Kelly McClure could be reached by phone Tuesday for comment.

The search committee accepted applications for the CEO spot through the May 13 board meeting.

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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.

  • Joy Van Buskirk

    I am wondering why Jean Montes participated in the negotiations with Ms. Rabate particularly when he abstained from voting to hire her? When asked why he abstained, he had no comment. Just who thought this was a good idea? I do not understand why one or more of the new board members did not step up to participate in the negotiations, given that they were going to work with her. If all were reluctant, why not another of the outside people who was involved in the vetting and selection process? Did the person or persons responsible for making the decision in regard to the negotiations ever think through the logic of asking Montes to participate? Forgive me if I just don’t get this nonsense.

  • Lycee Mom2

    Rumor has it, a group of parents sent her a Superman Cape at her apartment in San Francisco, that would make me decline as well.

  • Lycee Mom2

    Just found out, not a rumor at all, it is the truth. Let’s see who steps up to own this one, I’ll bet it is that group of parents with the identity crisis. They call themselves, “Concerned Parents”, no, “Rebuilding Trust Group”, no no, “Truth and Reconciliation”. Whatever, they scared her off and the children are paying the price.

  • Yoy Lord

    Why ‘O Why was I reminded of the English Nursery Rhyme when I heard the latest news from Lycee? You know the one, “…all the King’s Horses and all the King’s Men couldn’t….” You know the rest.

    Perhaps we should hire another consultant to help the one we have. Perhaps we should hire another law
    firm to guide and counsel the one we have. Perhaps we need to go farther from New Orleans in search for the Golden Egg, a CEO at a private French School, to lead us. There is always Hawaii and Alaska.

    Perhaps we should step back and ask where we have gone wrong in our search. Has the overriding goal
    to make Lycee a Private Public School in the heart of New Orleans so clouded our judgment that we have again spent huge amounts of public money and wasted more time in a search that has given our troubled school yet another black eye?

    When will the useless spending of public funds stop? When will the fact that Lyee is a Public Charter School be embraced.

  • Damn! I wish we HAD thought of that! Nope, sorry momma.

  • Just curious how you would be able to confirm such an absurd rumor. Do you have a camera in Ms. Rabate’s house? Seriously? Don’t be absurd.

  • nausee

    Oh give it a rest, lackey. Those parents are the voice of reason, which is why the immoral old board members are finally getting booted out. If anyone is scaring off CEO candidates it’s the ones who stand to lose the most power by his/her arrival.

  • Joy Van Buskirk

    The board’s chief responsibility is to hire and evaluate the performance of the school’s CEO. New board members should have been included in the negotiations. The new CEO will be working for them, not Montes, etc. Had I been the finalist knowing that the board chair abstained from voting for me, but yet was involved in the negotiation process, I would have been wary. Why would I trust him? I would have thought of his abstention as a vote of no confidence in me. By no means am I tearing down the school. Where did you read that? So no one is permitted to raise an issue in regard to what might have caused a good candidate to decline the LFNO offer? This is a tough decision to make, and the new board members should be making those decisions, and be involved in the negotiations. Aren’t there now four attorneys on the board? They should be pros at negotiating contracts. Finally, so if others feel differently than you, they are labeled as recriminators and distractors? Yes, Ms. Rebate had the credentials to affirm that she would become a competent and effective CEO, but don’t you want to analyze what might have gone wrong with the process? Perhaps this woman was besieged by myriads of emails/calls, etc. Might that be a problem? Search committees review their process after they have failed to hire a candidate. Our board did so when we were searching for a President of the Southern University System. We were not too proud to understand that our process had failed, and it needed to be tweaked. However, it seems that you are the expert in this arena, and I the novice. Good luck.

  • frenchfriend

    You are exactly correct. Lycee mom 2, it were not for the few and growing “Concerned “ETHICAL parents”, this school would not have a chance of surviving. Incompetence cannot run a public school, or any for that matter, and this exposure saved LFNO, for the time being.

  • Joy Van Buskirk

    Lycee Mom2
    Since I know who you are, I would say that there is plenty of blame to go around in regard to the state of Lycee Francais. However, the board has to bear the burden of fault in regard to the school’s current notorious status because the bucks stops with them. It is board members that must hold to the highest standards of integrity and professionalism, uniting administrators, staff, teachers, and parents to achieve the school’s mission. Unfortunately, the board failed in its mission.

  • Josh Reyher


    He is the President of the Board, it is his responsibility to carry out the negotiations. Ms. Rabate certainly knows the circumstances around the board. New Board members cannot elect a new President until June. So you criticize the board when you think they don’t follow procedures and criticize them when they do.

    I am all about process improvement, and believe a “hot wash” always helps capture lessons learned. Done it many a time! But criticizing Dr. Montes, because you don’t like him, does nothing more than stir the pot and distract people from the goal of hiring a new CEO.

  • Josh Reyher

    Superman rocks! Come on, someone gives you a Superman cape, that means they believe in you. That is an overwhelming vote of support.

    Ladies have the courage to be Supermoms and put your name out there! Why not? You disagree fine. But show your children the courage to take a stand and accept the consequences. The Rachal family certainly has, and while I disagree with them, I certainly respect them for their actions. People disagree and but heads all the time but that is how get stronger.

  • Joy, they did. Erin Greenwald is a new board member and the board specifically charged her with negotiating the offer along with Jean Montes.

  • Joy Van Buskirk


    Thanks for your clarification on my inconsistency, but have you read the charter lately? Of course you have. No where in the charter does it say that the board chair is responsible for negotiations with a prospective CEO. Matter of fact, the charter is silent in that regard, as the board, not the board chair negotiated with and hired the first CEO, noted in the charter. This has been the historic problem with LFNO – making up the rules as one goes along. The board can make the decision as to whom will negotiate with the candidate. Perhaps I did not read about the board motion taken and passed during a board meeting to appoint Montes, etc. I am in error then and stand to be corrected. Could you please let me know when that happened and where I can find it?

    I vehemently disapproved of how Montes and the board conducted its business. My statements always focused on the board business aspect not the personal. So you believe that if I disagree with the way he conducts business, I do not like him? That is certainly a faulty leap to judgement unless you are in the mind reading business, and even then you would come up empty.

  • I’ll own it. No, it wasn’t the grievance group, and no it didn’t scare her off. I can’t claim credit for the idea, but I liked it and still do. Here’s the note we sent:

    Dear Madame Rabaté:
    We heard you say in the meeting the other night that you might be looking for one of these…so now you have your cape! Even though you don’t have to be a super hero to run our school, we can assure you that the parents will give you all the support you need, and we will have fun together as you lead us forward! Sincerely, a group of parents… P.S. Actually, if you find this cape works, perhaps you won’t need to take a plane on the way back to your new school in New Orleans!

  • Joy Van Buskirk


    Too bad you cannot practice what you preach. You give passes to others when others butt heads, but you attack me when I have a differing opinion than yours calling me a recriminator and a distractor.

  • Joy Van Buskirk

    Thanks Michael for your clarification. Can you remember at what board meeting that transpired? Glad to hear that a new board member was involved. Hope that the search committee and board reviews the current process to determine what is working and what is not.

  • Joy Van Buskirk


    Never mind. I found it in an article I did not read. Was glad that the board is making and passing motions now in conducting its business. That is a great first step in best board practices. I stand corrected.

  • No, please get your facts straight. The consultant has been funded by a private non-profit corporation dedicated to the advancement of public charter schools in Louisiana. Any public funds the school used to bring Ms. Rabaté to New Orleans in this process was nominal and a common recruiting expenditure. The school is set to end the year with a surplus.

  • Josh Reyher

    Why shouldn’t I think you dislike any member of the board? Your vitriol comments, which I have commented to you on before, inflame a situation that doesn’t need inflaming.

  • Josh Reyher


    People disagree all the time. There is nothing wrong with that. I will, however, take you to task on your methods and the language that you use. just as I did in Feb. That is the point you have been missing, and what I have been preaching. You don’t need to scare people and spool them up, they have had enough of that. Getting people to come out from behind their masks, act civilly instead of launching inflaming barbs. I have been saying that for months, something I have seen you echo as well here and in the UPTM.

  • My pleasure and thanks for the reply. Yes, the board charged the pair with negotiation responsibilities right then in connection with the decision to extend an offer. I thought it was a good idea at the time to involve old and new, but you’re right, if they conclude there’s a different combination or another option that will work better for the next candidate, they should do that.

  • nickelndime

    If the French lady has a problem with a Superman cape, then I say, better to find out that she has no sense of humor NOW rather later, cuz gawd knows you need a really good sense of humor to live in this city! Ha!

  • Give me a break. Plenty of public dollars have been wasted in attempting to bring this school into compliance. Let’s at least be honest if you truly want to rectify the situation. Where do you think LAPACS gets their money?

  • Show your work.

  • Joy Van Buskirk

    I do not agree that I because I raise an issue that automatically scares people and spools them up. Raising questions sometimes puts a perspective on issues that others may not see, and can be useful. Sorry that you disapprove of my language and content. It might be best for you not to read my comments. That might remove your angst toward me. I believe that you have said no one gives credence to whatever I say so how can I spool up people?

  • Joy Van Buskirk

    Josh – Sorry that you perceive my comments as vitriolic. Perhaps some are tinged with sarcasm. You have given the board a pass for impugning people’s reputations, but seem to slap me each chance you get to state that I dislike members of the board. The truth is that I am indifferent to several of the board members, and hold them to a higher standard then you. Check out the difference between indifferent and dislike. I do not want to continue this diatribe with you as it is a waste of our time. Let us simply agree to disagree.

  • frenchfriend

    This is very unprofessional. French teachers take their jobs very seriously. I am sure you meant well, but maybe this was the final straw that made her chose to stay in California. We will never know, but who sends a super hero cape to a potential CEO of a K-12 school? It seems like you made a mockery of her position. Thank you.

  • I beg to differ F2. Madame Rabaté was one who first mentioned the superman cape (at the town hall), so she would not have been offended when one arrived with a pleasant note. 2. All good teachers, not just the French teachers, take their jobs very seriously. 3. French teachers, at least those at our school, have a very good sense of humor. You’re welcome.

  • frenchfriend

    Mike Pinkerton,
    Think what you like. This is a serious position and I think it was unprofessional. Yes, French teachers have a great sense of humor, I would agree, but in appropriate settings. Sending a potential CEO a super cape, even if your intentions were in the right place, is questionable.

  • Well sure, of course it is, and I’m confident the Board members were very professional in extending the serious offer for the serious position. That’s their job. As parents, our job is to show love and support, and we’re awfully creative in the ways we do it at our school. Not everyone gets it and that’s OK. Anyway, geez, I need a glass of wine. When’s the next meeting?

  • Lycee Mom2

    This includes the Academic Director, Madame Schexnider, correct?

  • Lycee Mom2

    Michael, I would take a look at the % of 600 parents you are agreeing with sending a Superman cape to a prospective candidate for CEO. Would you send that to the CEO of Lafarge? “we’re awfully creative in the ways we do it at our school”, is representative of about .06% of the entire school parent body. If you go to meeting’s these day’s there are about .06-.08% of the parents there and always the same 20-25 people for sure. Does not matter what time of the day or night, or where the meeting is, the same ones show up. The same ones who sighed the petition and who have sent numerous e-mails causing concern where there should not be concern. Probably the same ones with you who sent the Cape!

  • Capegate is so yesterday.