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Decision near: Local educator among finalists to head International High School

The search for a new leader of International High School of New Orleans is down to three candidates, the school’s board of directors, Voices for International Business and Education, revealed at their March meeting.

The finalists include the head of another local charter school, an administrator at an international school in San Francisco and a Pennsylvania-based education consultant.

The candidates are:

  • Sean Wilson, head of the International School of Louisiana
  • Elizabeth Larose, assistant head of school at the Chinese American International School in San Francisco
  • Carlos Lopez, consultant to the Lehigh Valley Education Center

The finalists were selected from a pool that at one time included as many as 90 candidates. (Another finalist, Tom Sturtevant, accepted a position at another school during the selection process.)

Ed Graf, chairman of the Head of School Search Committee, said the search led to many “fantastic” candidates.

“There would be 10 candidates in that pool that I’d be excited about having here,” Graf said.

The board has been searching for a new leader since the end of the 2012-13 school year, when they offered then-Head of School Anthony Amato a one-year contract. Amato died unexpectedly in December, and former Assistant Head of School Nan Ryan took the helm on an interim basis.

The board didn’t debate the merits of the candidates at the meeting, but Graf gave brief bios of each.

“They sound genuinely enthusiastic,” Graf said, adding that “New Orleans is a draw.”

Wilson, the lone local finalist, has been with the International School of Louisiana for eight years. He gave an outstanding interview during which his love for students was very evident, Graf said.

Reached last week, Wilson said his interest in the position stems from a desire to “ensure that those students that are in immersion program, or students who want to have the experience of a language-rich environment, the International High School is the place they make that happen.”*

Wilson added that he believes the programs he put in place at the International School are in good position, given the school’s academic standing and the recognition accorded the language-immersion programs.

“We are fulfilling the mission of what we intended to do,” he said.

Wilson said he has informed his staff and members of the school community that he is a finalist, but maintains he remains dedicated to his current employer.

“I’m totally committed to ISL,” he said. “This is just a process to see where the future leads.”

Lopez, who currently lives in Pennsylvania, has an “up by the bootstraps” upbringing, and has worked with several bilingual and language-immersion charter schools, Graf said.

Larose is a native of Thibodaux.

The board is aiming to select the next head of school in the next week or two. In coming days, the three candidates will visit the school and spend time with students, teachers, parents and board members, Graf said.

At the end of the meeting, geography teacher Natasha Esteves asked whether the process allowed time for the candidates to interact with the school community, which she likened to a village.

“They have to see it for themselves,” Esteves said.

She added that she’d like to see Ryan stay with the school in some capacity.

“I really think Ms. Ryan and [interim assistant head of school Lauren] Hitt’s connection to all of this needs to be taken into consideration,” Esteves said.

*Correction: The original headline on this story incorrectly referred to the International School of Louisiana. The story also misstated when The Lens spoke with Wilson. (April 2, 2014)

This story was updated to note that the pool of finalists changed after the meeting when one of the finalists, Tom Sturtevant, accepted another job. (April 2, 2014)

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