Voteless Lycee board meeting learns of Fete results and plans for expanding kindergarten

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Monday’s scheduled monthly meeting of the board of Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans could not be a regular session with votes taken because the agenda had not been issued 24 hours in advance, as required by state open-meetings law.

Board chairman Tim Gray offered that explanation to parents, staff and members of the general public who showed up, expecting action. The board could discuss agenda items but but not act on them, Gray said. Public comment would not be possible, he added, because school policy limits comment to items up for a vote — a decision Gray modified later in the meeting.

The school’s annual Fête de la Musique fundraiser in March grossed $67,365, offset by expenses of $26,000 for a net just above $41,000, the school’s principal and chief executive Keith Bartlett reported. This was shy of last year’s $48,377 take, but well in excess of the $35,000 budgeted.

The school will seek to add a sixth section of kindergarten next year and will strive to fill the 20 extra seats with at-risk students, Bartlett said. In a related update, he said the school was delaying the decision to become its own food provider until the total at-risk enrollment was above 51 percent.

Bartlett said the school is reserving a classroom in the Cabildo, the historic Jackson Square building run by the Louisiana State Museum. He said it would facilitate study of the history, culture, and architecture of the French Quarter, as well as the area’s French roots.

Bartlett introduced the board to Sarah Stickney, the school’s new director of development. Joanna Sese, currently in France, will serve as director of admissions, he said.

Bartlett went on to provide details of the hiring process. The four top candidates for each position were interviewed and chosen with input from board member Lisa Tropez-Arceneaux and the school’s academic and finance directors, he said.

Gray announced that several parents had requested the applications of candidates for the positions. State law requires that applications for school positions defined as “policy-making” must be made public, Gray said, adding that he had written Louisiana’s attorney general asking for guidance on the issue.

Gray said that if release of the applications was discretionary, he would oppose making the applications public because of the chilling effect it could have on future applicants. Many applicants would not want their current employers to know they were shopping for a new job, he said.

Member Erin Greenwald described a hypothetical scenario in which members of the public request every job application, and local online websites, such as the Uptown Messenger and The Lens, publish the names.

Gray decided to allow public comment on the board’s motion to adjourn, and parent Charles Varley used the opportunity to object to the board’s public comment policy.

“Just because the board’s taken a decision, it’s not particularly inclusive of the parents … that you do not allow comments,” Varley said.

Greenwald responded that there were other ways to provide input besides board meetings.

“We are a board that is trying very much not to meddle in things that do not concern us,” she said.

Varley responded that parents wanted to weigh in when the board set policy. “This is when there’s an immediate ability to reply to that,” he said. “We’re discussing it now.”

The board decided to hold a second April meeting next Monday at 6:30 p.m. to vote on the agenda items that could not be resolved due to the failure to publish the agenda on time. Prominent on next Monday’s agenda is a five-year personnel plan that calls for two additional interventionists, a custodian, and an information-technology staffer. Some of the positions will be part-time or shared between facilities.

Board members Lisa Tropez-Arceneaux, Ann Meese, Alysson Mills, Courtney Garrett, and Michael Williams were also present. Ben Castoriano and Mary Jacobs Jones were absent.

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