Jeremy Hunnewell — now chief financial officer of Zehnder Communications — was personally selected by state Superintendent of Education John White to help the school resolve its leadership crisis in January 2013 after the rapid departure of its two founding leaders, the resignation of multiple board members and the potential revocation of its charter. That spring, Hunnewell used his role as a neutral arbiter to oversee the replacement of the entire board of trustees, and create a search process that ultimately led to the hiring of current school CEO Keith Bartlett.
After guiding the school to among the highest academic ratings in the city and growing its enrollment to more than 800 students, Bartlett announced at the beginning of this school year that he would retire at the end of the school’s fiscal year in June. The school’s governing board activated its CEO search committee, and on Monday night the committee recommended hiring Hunnewell to help the school once again, albeit with a more limited task.
“Ultimately, we decided it was in the best interest of the school to hire a consultant as opposed to a firm,” said board member Ben Castoriano. “And, when considering who, it quickly became apparent to us that bringing Jeremy back was a good option.”
Hunnewell told the board he has already begun introducing himself to the school community. He plans to attend a meeting of the Parent Teacher Organization tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 23), and will spend the following two days meeting teachers at both campuses.
“We’re really happy that Jeremy was willing to help us again,” said board member Allyson Mills, who like Castoriano, was among the initial slate of board members Hunnewell helped seat in 2013.
The goal is to hire someone early enough before Bartlett’s scheduled departure to provide for a brief transition period, Hunnewell and the board said. If the hiring comes close to June 30 and the board needs Bartlett to stay on a little longer, he suggested he was open to the possibility.
The CEO job opening has already been posted on indeed.com, and received four responses, Hunnewell said, though he has not begun reviewing them. He will continue to post it in more locations moving forward, and asked the board to spread the word about the opening as well.
“I think we’re in a good spot, certainly relative to the last time we did this,” Hunnewell said. “We’re going to build the airplane as we’re flying it in some instances, but we’re in a good spot.”
Board members asked Hunnewell what how much of a role location should play in the search for a CEO, and he urged the board to consider international applicants. The CEO search committee hasn’t decided how to vet candidates yet, and the committee members may ultimately decide that geography is a factor, Hunnewell said.
“If there’s a great candidate that’s out of town, I hope they will receive ample consideration,” Hunnewell said.
After a 45-minute closed-door executive session to evaluate Bartlett’s performance, the board voted unanimously to offer him a 4 percent raise in his final year. They had originally offered him more, noted board chair Michael Williams, but Bartlett asked that it be revised downward to the same 4-percent increase the rest of the staff and faculty are receiving this year.
The board also heard the following updates from Bartlett:
- State officials expect Lycee to serve a population that is 60 percent economically disadvantaged, the same proportion as Louisiana as a whole, but only about 42 percent of the current student body qualifies. The state has acknowledged Lycee’s efforts to recruit more disadvantaged children and holding specific recruiting sessions in the west-Carrollton neighborhood where the Priestley campus will be located — such as reserving the two-thirds of every incoming kindergarten class for them — but has rescinded the school’s ability to offer priority admission to siblings of current students, Bartlett said: “The legislature and the state is fully expecting us to pull out all the stops to get to that 60 percent.”
- The school is awaiting a decision from the state Supreme Court on a lawsuit regarding charter-school funding. That ruling could come as early as Thursday, or wait until March.
- The school has hired its first transportation director to fulfill the state’s requirement to provide bus service to all students more than a mile from campus by next year.
- The school has been visited by a French education inspector as part of its effort to receive official French accreditation for its sixth grade. Among her recommendations was providing more in-school opportunities to do homework, to reduce disparities in opportunity for parental assistance among Lycee’s diverse population.
- The federal government shutdown prevented Lycee on Monday from using its classroom within the National Park Service building on Decatur Street in the French Quarter.
To read our live coverage of Monday’s meeting, see below.