Bricolage Academy on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans. (Marta Jewson/The Lens)

At a short Bricolage Academy governance committee meeting Thursday morning, board chair Yvette Jones confirmed the Esplanade Avenue charter school’s CEO, Trove’ Profice, has taken a leave of absence through the end of the school year.

One parent questioned whether the leave was voluntary or taken at the board’s urging. But according to Jones, the leave was taken for personal reasons at Profice’s request. 

Profice’s absence comes in the heat of a union drive that she has opposed. In a little over one week, the union, Bricolage Academy Educators United, will host a union election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. The union election will take place May 28.

The pandemic-riddled school year is also winding down, with students’ last day scheduled for May 26. 

The decision to take the vote under federal supervision came after the Bricolage board failed to respond to a request from the union for the board to recognize the union voluntarily and enter into contract negotiations. Thursday’s committee meeting included no discussion of the unionization effort. 

At the end of the meeting, held to recommend amending the school’s bylaws to add a second parent to the board, parent Roby Chavez objected to adjournment. (Chavez, who has two children at the school, has frequently criticized the school in the past, particularly about its special education program.)

“I’m going to oppose the adjournment at this moment. I feel like as the board chair that the school is kind of wondering what is going on with the CEO,” he said. “We understand she’s taken a leave of absence, and we’re hoping you can kind of fill in the gaps and communicate with parents what’s happening, especially so close to the end of the school year.”

Though Jones initially noted the item was not on their agenda and that the board generally does not discuss personnel issues, she did go on to answer Chavez’s question.

“The CEO has taken a personal leave,” Jones said. “As I understand it, it will be to the end of the school year.”

Chavez asked whether the board had made the decision. 

“This was a personal decision, a personal leave,” Jones said. 

There is no apparent connection between Profice’s abrupt leave of absence and the union drive, but she has come out against the BAEU, saying that a union at Bricolage is “not in the best interest” of the school. Profice did not respond to a request for comment. 

Jones has also publicly opposed the union, saying in an April letter to parents that it was unnecessary and questioning why the BAEU’s membership does not include certain support workers or supervisors. The unionization effort has also faced increased opposition in recent weeks on social media from a group calling themselves Employees for an Independent Bricolage.

In posts on Instagram, the group has criticized BAEU’s organizing tactics, who is included in the potential bargaining group and argues the school does not need a union to facilitate communication between teachers and administrators. They have also questioned Bricolage Academy Educators United’s need to partner with the United Teachers of New Orleans and its national affiliate. 

BAEU organizers say a union is needed to elevate teachers voices in decision-making at the school, address pay discrepancies and to ensure teachers are fairly compensated for extra work, such as substitute teaching.

The Bricolage Academy board of directors has only met once since BAEU presented a petition to the board in late February and has not taken a vote to recognize the union voluntarily. 

At its March meeting, the board allowed a handful of Bricolage staff to speak publicly about the request for recognition, but did not have to take public comment on the matter. The board then met with its lawyers in a private session to receive legal advice on the issue. 

Then last week, the board cancelled its scheduled meeting due to a lack of quorum, Jones said. 

At the Thursday meeting, she announced the board would meet next on Tuesday at 4 p.m. The agenda for that meeting has not yet been released.

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...