After months of searching, Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans is just a signed contract away from having a new school leader.

 “We did determine that Keith Bartlett would be the man for the job,” said member Erin Greenwald as she presented Bartlett to the board of directors.

Greenwald led the search committee that voted to recommend Bartlett for the charter school’s chief executive officer earlier in the day.

She said his experience as principal at Alice Boucher World Languages Academy in Lafayette ultimately convinced search committee members  that Bartlett was indeed the best candidate.

“The school was troubled, very high profile, embroiled politically, and Keith went in and was able to establish trust” with the all stakeholders, Greenwald said.

The board held an hour-long executive session, of which Bartlett attended about 40 minutes. Bartlett passed the time waiting to be called into the session speaking with the 10 parents gathered for the meeting.

When the board reconvened in open session, members unanimously voted to accept the search committee’s recommendation. They asked Greenwald and current board chair Jean Montes to negotiate a contract with Bartlett.

When the state stepped in months ago to aid the embattled school, management consultant Jeremy Hunnewell said the school needed a new leader and a new board. Those recommendations launched a nationwide hunt for a CEO, and a citywide search for new board members to take over come July 1.

With that leader likely secured, and the board just days away from the voluntary June 30 turnover they agreed to, member Catherine MacPhaille made a surprise move.

MacPhaille, who’d served on the board for years, announced she would be stepping down immediately in order to allow new board member, Tessa Jackson, voting privileges. Thursday was likely the final meeting for MacPhaille, along with Montes and Paige Saleun.

As MacPhaille stood up and walked away from the table, the audience thanked her for her service with a round of applause. Member Elizabeth Rhodes took the microphone and thanked all outgoing board members who also were met with applause.

Then the board held elections — with Jackson a voting member. Ann Meese was elected to serve as secretary and Courtney Garrett was elected treasurer.

Saleun nominated Greenwald for vice chair and member Ben Castoriano nominated Alysson Mills. Greenwald withdrew because she said she wanted to gain more experience working on committees before accepting an officer position. Mills was elected vice chair.

Saleun then nominated Tim Gray to lead the board and members unanimously seated their new chairman. They also authorized Gray as a signatory.

After the meeting, parents seemed optimistic; however, the last candidate to come this far declined the job.

Parent Amy George-Hirons said she felt “cautiously optimistic.”

Paula Griffin, also a parent, said she was impressed when MacPhaille volunteered to step down. “I was moved by her honorable action tonight.”

“I think we made great progress tonight,” said Niki Rachal “We’re looking forward to a great new year with a great new leader.”

Greenwald promised parents during the meeting that she’d get to work “right away.”

“Tomorrow Jean Montes and I will talk in the morning and we should have a contract to [Bartlett] tomorrow afternoon,” Greenwald said after the meeting.

“He’s supposed to start Monday.”

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...