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Lycée Français enters school year with new board and new CEO in place

Earlier this year a management consultant ordered sweeping changes for embattled Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans: a new board and a new CEO. And that’s exactly what parents saw at the charter school’s board meeting Monday night.

The French curriculum school’s new CEO, Keith Bartlett, sat front and center in the school cafeteria, in the middle of a long table of the newly elected board of directors.

Bartlett, a veteran educator, held a meet-and-greet with parents before the board meeting and kicked the meeting off with an uplifting message.

“It’s been a very long time since I’ve been in a building where there is such enthusiasm and positive energy,” said Bartlett after a welcoming round of applause.

While there have been some “bumps in the road,” Bartlett said he’s not looking to assign blame.

“Together we start charting a new course,” he said.

After months of searching, parents hope Bartlett can provide the school with a fresh start and the stable leadership it has lacked after two school leaders resigned during the school’s first two years.

Along with a new CEO, Lycée’s board has an entirely new set of faces compared to three months ago, and newly elected board chairman Tim Gray  also was looking to usher in a new era of leadership.

“One thing we want to work on is establishing transparency and trust,” Gray said.

Gray publicly asked parents to direct their passion for the school into volunteering for various board committees or other groups, such as the Dad’s Club. The board committees will tackle issues such as the school’s hunt for a new facility and the Dad’s Club frequently volunteers for the school.

He also called the nominating committee back into action after two board members resigned the last weekend in June, dropping the board one below the state required minimum of seven members.

Committee head Jeff Teague said they will use a process similar to the initial search for members, selecting candidates from a pool of applicants to interview and then recommend for board membership. He said Catherine MacPhaille, Maggie Runyan-Shefa, Robert Bell and Nancy Shoemaker will all return to serve on the committee.

Applications for board membership will be available through the school’s website and the committee will accept applications through July 19 Teague said.

“We’d like to have that all done so we can have a slate to present to the board at the Aug 12 meeting,” Teague said.

Members asked Teague to find three new members, preferably with fundraising and facilities expertise.

“We need a more diverse board,” Gray said. “This board really does not look like a cross section of the population New Orleans.”

After a complete board turnover in three months, one stipulation of the overhaul was to stagger board terms in order to prevent such large turnover and preserve institutional memory in coming years.

To that end, terms of one, two or three years were assigned to members depending on which of those numbers was scribbled on a slip of paper they selected from member Alysson Mills’ purse.

Members Ben Castoriano and Ann Meese will serve for three years. Mills will serve for two years, as well as member Erin Greenwald, who joined the meeting via video conference. The one-year terms were selected by Gray and Courtney Garrett.

Gray introduced committee leaders:

  • Finance Committee: Courtney Garrett

  • Governance and Compliance Committee: Ben Castoriano and Alysson Mills

  • Personnel: Erin Greenwald

  • Development/Facilities/Middle School: Tim Gray

  • Academic and Recruitment: Ann Meese

The Lens previewed Lycee’s $3.7 million budget last week, which is increasing by 23 percent in 2013-2014 as the school grows to include a third grade.

Julianne Ruocco read through practically every line-item in the budget, and the board paused to take every parent question.

Parents questioned whether teachers were receiving raises, since the overall line item for teachers and assistant teachers salaries was decreasing. Ruocco said teachers were indeed receiving raises but that the school needs fewer teachers with the higher grades. She said first, second and third classes have only one teacher, whereas pre-k and kindergarten have both a teacher and assistant teacher.

Growth in administrative salaries is the result of an increase in positions and the fact that for the majority of last year Academic Director Gisele Schexnider acted as interim CEO. Bartlett said the school is taking applications for academic director and an office manager, as he has outlined new job descriptions.

Parent Niki Rachal asked if the school was continually evaluating professional service contracts with vendors. She said she hoped they sought better prices through requests for proposals. Ruocco said they do, but that not all contracts have to go out for bid.

“We need to save as much money and do what we can with public dollars,” Rachal said.

Board members agreed.

The board will vote on the budget in August.

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