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Charter school board’s membership drops below state-required minimum

Just as the embattled Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans community may have thought things were settling down, two board members unexpectedly resigned this weekend — dropping the board below the number of members required by state law.

Newly elected board chairman Tim Gray confirmed the resignation of members Elizabeth Rhodes and Tessa Jackson. He said they each resigned Saturday, the same day the school’s new chief executive officer Keith Bartlett signed his contract.

The resignations also came the same weekend three board members  already were slated to roll-off voluntarily. This was part of a massive overhaul of both Lycée’s board and administration recommended by the school’s management consultant, Jeremy Hunnewell.

Both Rhodes and Jackson were added this spring as the board bolstered its numbers in preparation for the June 30 roll-off of five members. Two of those five resigned prior to June 30.

Members Jean Montes, Paige Saleun and Jacqueline Simon remained on the board and were set to roll-off this weekend — and they did, according to Gray.

What parents probably did not expect were the two additional resignations. Without Rhodes and Jackson the board has only six members now, one shy of the state’s requirement.

A voting member for just two days, Tessa Jackson was approved by the board in May but couldn’t vote until member Catherine MacPhaille resigned her seat during Thursday’s board meeting, freeing a seat for Jackson.

Elizabeth Rhodes was brought on in April and recently served on the committee that selected Bartlett as the school’s CEO.

When asked what prompted the resignations, Gray deferred to the individuals. Neither Jackson nor Rhodes immediately returned phone calls Wednesday.

With an upcoming board meeting next week, Gray said the board plans to regroup and begin searching for new members.

“The plan is to bring the nominating committee in on Monday,” Gray said.

Gray said he would ask the head of the committee, Jeff Teague, to evaluate the status of committee members and provide an update to the board. MacPhaille was the only board member who previously served on the committee.

Even with Rhodes and Jackson, the board would have  been only one member above the state requirement he said. Gray said that fact alone would have led him to call on the nominating committee soon regardless of the resignations.

The board is scheduled to meet Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Patton Street campus.

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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.

  • frenchfriend

    With the resignation of Elizabeth Rhodes,100 percent white board, white CEO, white academic director, white development office, 80 percent plus white student body. What message does this set? BESE , you have done it!!! With all the special help and gifts to codifil, Segregation is back through charter schools and extreme selective admissions and no oversite!!! Until this school mirrors the state it will not be respected.

  • Nola

    Wow! 2 African American board members in 1 day. No Board diversity unless you start considering height, weight and gender. I would love to know why these two women left so abruptly. I smell a rat.

  • frenchfriend

    No worries, Sweet Olive can fix the diversity issue with Photoshop.

  • Joy Van Buskirk

    I was extremely saddened to read the latest LFNO story. Whatever could have driven these two board members away? I was heartened that two African American women signed on to serve as board members, as they might have attracted more minorities to enroll in Lycée, thereby making it a more diverse school, and a credit to the public school community.

    Scuttlebutt is that board members are being plagued by dozens of emails and calls from parents. Give this board a break people. They do have lives outside of the school. This type of behavior drives off talented individuals who are willing to volunteer to give of their personal time to assist Lycee in becoming a school of excellence. Why do you think that Rebate did not take the job? Could one of the reasons be that she was overwhelmed by parents harassing her to take the CEO position, and that put her off? It is great that LFNO parents are so dedicated to ensuring that the school has the right leadership. If I were a LFNO parent, I would feel the same, but there should be a certain protocol established with the leadership selection process.

    Board members, and administrative staff should not be interviewed in front of parents and the community. That is quite unprofessional. The recommended candidates should be given time to mingle with parents, but the interviews should be held behind closed doors. Certainly, personal email addresses, and phone numbers of possible or selected candidates should not be shared with parents, community and staff. School email addresses should be created for those who are selected to serve to link them with parents and the community. There has got to be a delineation between a leader’s private life, and that associated with the school.

    I found the LFNO interview process for board members and CEO candidates alarming. I understand that there is a need for transparency given Lycee’s history, but for heaven’s sake don’t make the interview process a dog and pony show. The charter deliberately did not require open interviews for either board members or the CEO position for one reason – professionals need to be treated as such.

  • Josh Reyher

    Joy I would continue what you said with we need to let people do their jobs. Especially a volunteer board. Mr. Bartlett, the Board and the staff have a little over a month till the next school year starts. A lot to be done! Getting board diversity is important to stimulate the best ideas, perspectives and more importantly outreach into the community. Right now we don’t need to create a crisis where none exists.

  • Joy Van Buskirk


    I know that there is a lot to be done to ready the school to open for the new academic year. However, now the board is in the position of having to find at least one board member in a hurry. That is a problem. I will agree to disagree with you in regard to your last statement. It is a crisis when a public school lacks diversity to the extent of Lycee re: the board, administration, staff, and student body. That situation speaks volumes about a chartered public school. Charters were supposedly created to serve all children, especially at-risk students, with the notion that charters could do it better. Currently Lycee cannot lay claim to that objective. Yes, there is much on the board’s and administration’s plate. When this latest mini board crisis is resolved, the board should make the diversity issue a top priority.

  • nickelndime

    Public charter schools were supposed to address the academic needs of (focus on) at-risk students (a better option), not create selective-admissions schools that should have returned to direct-run, local control (e.g., Franklin High, Lusher, Audubon, Lake Forest Montessori). Instead, these schools took advantage of the opportrunbity to free themselves of local control (in actuality) and create school “businesses” on public money. Now, before a couple of commenters get hysterical, I am not saying that Lycee is selective-admissions. That is not what its charter says or even alludes to, so that is not where I am going. What I am saying is that the charter school movement in Louisiana, specifically in New Orleans and now Jefferson Parish, is tainted. To put it bluntly, it stinks – at state and local levels. Administrators (CEO, CFO, CAO, COO, etc.) feed nonprofit charter boards lopsided information (which will help them keep their jobs). Too many attorneys “serve” (?) on these charter boards. Billable hours are going up and up and up. Certain attorneys (such as Reid, etc.) are making a lot of money to do what should be done by overpaid school administrators and nonprofit charter boards. They (charter administrators, nonprofit boards) cannot even respond to basic public records requests. Look at the Adams and Reese LLP billing documents if you think this is an exaggeration. And these law firms want to keep it this way. It just keeps paying and paying and paying.

  • boathead12

    “LillyWhite” is the phrase one might use to describe the upper echelon of this school. You don’t need to be a real scholar of history to understand how this might be off putting to many New Orleans families.

    What happened to Sandra Hester? She is what this board needs 😉
    (only kidding, but I made myself laugh)

  • Joy Van Buskirk


    I disagree with you. A school must have an active Outreach program to attract all races. African American board members can spread the word in their community to encourage parents to apply, and Hispanic and Asian members could do likewise. You cannot attract children of all races without reaching out, and letting parents know about the education opportunities for their children in New Orleans. Did you ever think that all parents do not own a computer? That they might not be privy to all the city wide schools, including charters, in New Orleans? That they may be struggling to select the best school for their child? Perhaps you are short sighted because you are privileged. How lucky for you.

  • nickelndime

    Charter schools, and the nonprofits that run them, are out of control – particularly in New Orleans, but other parts of this state have been similarly affected (thank you, Jindal, BESE, LDOE, RSD, and all the influential and wealthly individuals who think they are smarter and know better and who will continue to make the decisions that affect other people’s children). This is like the guy who is stealing wheelbarrows, but nobody can figure out what he is stealing. The public has been particularly lenient with charter schools and their management (high-salaried administrators and nonprofit boards) and has been complicit with one mistake after another. Enough already! The charter school idea was intended to operate under the best intentions, but in retrospect, these nonprofit charter boards are perhaps the worst piece of legislature I have ever seen. Too many of the individuals who flocked here (for employment and/or to sit on these nonprofit boards) have TFA backgrounds (and yes, I say that like it is a bad thing). Kira Orange Jones is one example, but I think John White best exemplifies the worst case scenario of what can happen in overnight, fast-tracking in a profession. He gets the “F” award. For all intents and purposes, I think that professional education as a field in this state is finished.

  • Nola

    Yaya, The fact is this school has done a miserable job of attracting minority students and its prior board thumbed its nose at the provisions in the charter that would allow it to reach out to the members of the New Orleans Community that charter schools were intended to serve. I have been an opponent of creating additional public language immersion schools for a long time because I believe immersion schools discourage financially at risk families. Home work help in foreign language schools is very important to provide an even playing field for all students. Many financially disadvantaged children do not attend pre-k and begin Kindergarten behind the pack. As I understand it, LFNO’s after care costs are very expensive compared to other public schools (which makes it very difficult for less advantaged working parents). Are there scholarships for homework help? (Not as I understand it because it is done during after care.) Beyond the fact that this school has chosen not to reach out to our city’s financially at risk population, It has also chosen to make if financially prohibitive for those children to receive the help they need with curriculum in a different language…and Yes, I have heard before that the poor children in France are taught this curriculum…But PLEASE, They already speak French! With regard to racial diversity, It is a crime that this school’s board and student body is not diverse when it occupies one of the few available school buildings in New Orleans. New Orleans is a city with well over 60 % minorities and (YES) I know that this school is a State Charter. BUT, it did not establish itself in Jefferson Parish, It is taking up valuable real estate in Orleans Parish and that should mean something. ISL is also a type 2 charter and it is a very diverse school.
    I say bad school…I’m not sure what you meant by deeper issues..but if not knowing the school exists is deep. Then I am sure that is an issue as well.

  • nickelndime

    So many excellent points, Nola. This is a damn shame. It is a crime. This entire state is in total disarray. It’s called CORRUPTION. Let the public stop asking, “Is that all there is?,” and ask instead, “What’s next?” Don’t accept it. If it isn’t good enough for you, how can it be good enough for your children. It isn’t. Let’s fix it. Don’t think you can slide by by just accepting it. It doesn’t work that way.