One of Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans' campuses in New Orleans.

Two top administrators at Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans announced Friday afternoon that they won’t return to the Uptown New Orleans French curriculum school in the fall. The announcement comes amid investigations into human resources complaints and after several tense board and committee meetings in recent weeks.

Shortly after Chief Executive Officer Marina Schoen sent an email to staff on Friday informing them that Chief Operating Officer Jethro Celestin would leave his position, she sent a similar letter of her own to the school’s board of directors. Her decision came as the board investigates human resources complaints from a former employee and parents have called for leadership changes.

In a phone interview Friday, Schoen, who started as academic director at the school in 2013 amid tumultuous turnover, before rising to CEO in 2018, said it was time to take a break. 

“With COVID this year has been nonstop, honestly I’m sure all heads of school have felt the same way, having to deal with missing staff, quaratines, having to keep the school open, doing virtual school, hybrid and in-person,” Schoen said. “I’m very happy with where the school is and we’ve accomplished a lot. I feel very proud of the work that I’ve done and I believe it’s time for me to take a little break.”

The news comes as school officials have been looking into a 30-page complaint letter the former HR director submitted after leaving the organization this spring. The letter has been circulated among the board. 

The letter detailed record-keeping concerns, possible wage violations, and other issues and also delved into personal issues the former employee had with others. It prompted the board to hire a consultant to investigate the allegations. 

Schoen declined to comment on the letter. 

“The accusations presented to the Board by a former employee are something we take very seriously. We have hired an independent HR firm to address the HR concerns expressed in the allegations,” board president Matthew Moreland wrote in an email this week. “We have also enlisted the assistance of our counsel to aid in our examination of the remaining matters raised. This is a detailed review that does take some time to parse out and present the information to our Board to make any decisions if necessary.”

The school went through leadership turmoil in 2013, prompting then-State Superintendent of Education John White to step in to appeal to teachers, many of whom are French nationals on special education visas, to stay at the school. 

On Friday evening, Moreland confirmed their intentions, noting Schoen’s contract was set to expire at the end of the month. Celestin’s last day of employment will also be June 30.

As for a CEO search, Moreland said the board plans to address it at a meeting on Monday. 

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...