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Throng of candidates seeking appointment to Lycee development and admissions jobs

About 70 candidates have applied for two administrative positions at Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans, and that’s enough, principal and chief executive officer Keith Bartlett told the board at a brief meeting on Tuesday.

Parent Charles Varley asked whether the temporary incumbents in those positions — Lora Reugger, coordinator of development, and Mary Carstens, coordinator of admissions and enrollment — would have to reapply to be considered.  Bartlett said they would.

A number of parents have been critical of the two women because their business, Sweet Olive Design and Development was hired by the prior school leadership — which largely resigned after embroiling the school in various controversies.

In other business, the board agreed unanimously that Bartlett should continue negotiations for classroom space at nearby St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, as discussed at last month’s meeting. Member Mary Jacobs Jones said the school would formalize an agreement to be voted on at next month’s meeting, April 14.

Bartlett said a KaBOOM! playground was successfully constructed, with parents and staff participating. Now that sand is no longer being tracked into the building, the floors have been rewaxed he said.

The school’s new playground coach, Ashley Aucoin, fared well on a 10-question faculty survey, Bartlett said. Teachers reported increased participation and more positive behavior from students since Aucoin was hired, Feb. 1.

The school’s annual Fête de la Musique will be March 16 at Generations Hall. Performers include Ani DiFranco, Kermit Ruffins, and the Fleur de Tease Burlesque Troupe.

Vice chair Alysson Mills told the board that the one-year terms for board chair Tim Gray and treasurer Courtney Garrett were now expiring. Gray is willing to serve another term, but  Garrett leaves the board in June, she said.

In the absence of several members, the board decided to skip the scheduled review of its 990 audit form.

Board members Ann Meese, Courtney Garrett, and Ben Castoriano were also present. Tim Gray, Erin Greenwald, Lisa Tropez-Arceneaux and Michelle Williams were absent.

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  • frenchfriend

    Sweet olive needs to go. They are liability Keith Bartllet”s decision to keep them was one of weakness. This unqualified team and their admissions policies are questionable at best. The school is doing better but it will never change it’s image without these two gone . Embarrassing.

  • Nola

    Yes! Please replace the last hold outs from the bad old days. Send Sweet Olive packing! Integrity is very important for employees working with student records and personal information. Background check all applicants. Find people worthy of the job!

  • frenchfriend

    When is the Lens going to do an in depth article on Sweet Olive and why so many parents at the lycée want them out. These parents are begging for a clean slate and the past nightmare these two were heavily involved in to be over.

    Why did Keith not ask : how and who signed their original contracts, what their involments were with chateau de lac and the New Orleans youth orchestra , how did they conduct admissions for three years purposely excluding at risk community. Did they have to explain some serious ethical violations that benefitted a certain ex board member, what is their past experience , where is the yearbook money they collected , why did they photoshoot certain people out of important pictures, why are kids enrolled in kindergarten that don’t have birthdays that match legal cut off day, why no out reach

  • frenchfriend

    And so much more. Please do a story on them and ask Keith why he was hoodwinked ?

  • Pere Lycee

    The article states, “A number of parents have been critical of the two women because their business, Sweet Olive Design and Development was hired by the prior school leadership — which largely resigned after embroiling the school in various controversies.” Let’s elaborate on what’s behind those criticisms as both women stand a strong chance of permanent employment with the school. Sweet Olive wasn’t just hired by the prior school leadership – their contract was signed exclusively by ousted former board chair Jean Montes and not by the school’s then-administrator, contrary to what Montes asserted in a public meeting last October that was recorded here in The Lens. This was revealed in a subsequent public information request for that contract. Sweet Olive’s ties with Montes also extended to a separate and lucrative contract with the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra, of which he is artistic director. Furthermore, they also had a monthly contract to promote Chateau du Lac restaurant, owned by another ousted board member, Paige Saleun. Interestingly, one of Sweet Olive’s first moves upon getting the LFNO contract was to merge the entire school’s mailing list with Chateau du Lac’s so that school parents found themselves receiving the restaurant’s monthly newsletter without subscribing. This practice was only stopped after parental complaints, and the two women attributed the mailing list merging to an error. This was an incredulous explanation for an obvious ethnical violation on board member Saleun’s part and suggested in every way a collusion.

    The pair also received the school photography contract for the 2012-13 school year on top of their $75,000 services contract with the school, despite not being professional photographers and lacking even the most basic equipment for school portraits (lacking lighting, the pictures were all taken outside). Interestingly, class photos taken and processed by Sweet Olive found several African-American teachers – widely believed among staff members to be targeted for firing – photoshopped out of the pictures (before and after versions were later widely circulated around). A sufficient and plausible technical explanation was never offered for an action that would’ve taken deliberate care and effort, even if it was a very poorly executed Photoshop job.

    Lora Reugger, whose position at LFNO puts her in daily contact with a range of sensitive student data, is a former nurse whose license was revoked for forging physician’s signatures on a range of prescriptions in at least half a dozen incidents, a felony offense to which she admitted.

    LFNO will not put a close to a very long and dark series of chapters in its short life until Sweet Olive is permanently removed from its administration. These women gained their position through close personal and professional relationships with former board members who had inappropriately taken administrative control of the school until state intervention wrested it away. They moved into control of a range of widely different administrative functions where their qualifications were dubious at best and their production of deliverables for the school have been murky and in constant flux. Had a more thorough background check been performed, at least one of them never should have been hired to be in a position close to sensitive data. And access to that data was, in fact, almost immediately violated as the school’s mailing list was shared with a private business for its own gain.

    Sweet Olive has its supporters at the school – a tight knit group of their friends and school parents who are clearly untroubled by the ethical conflicts, incompetence and malevolence these women have demonstrated so far in their roles. But for other parents who have never connected the dots between the previous board and these women, for Mr. Bartlett, who needs to take a more objective look at them than he has, and for the board who oversees him and who must ultimately take responsibility for his lapses in judgment, it’s time to cut these branches off the tree. Until then, the school will be stunted or worse, as one day it will fully account and be held liable for Sweet Olive’s actions on its behalf.

  • nickelndime

    LYCEE: Take a “more objective look,” “lapses in judgment”…(sounds like a typical charter CEO to me). Presents a nice picture, looks eager, but overpaid and performs as expected by a lackluster board. With this student population (low at-risk, free-lunch numbers) and high parental participation, any number of individuals could have filled this position. Just love to pay those legal firms with other people’s money, don’t they?

  • boathead12

    Well said. I know only a very few of the characters in this saga, but it is frankly enough that these ladies are associated with the previous board that they should find new work and move on. Great news that they have 70 applicants for the positions! It’s a good thing that the board is looking for new space…this school is finally ready to live up to it’s promise.