Milestone SABIS Academy criticizes church’s selection of Lycee Francais as new tenant for school

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The entrance to Milestone SABIS Academy at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. Next year, Lycee Francais de la Nouvelle Orleans will move into the building. (

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church’s recent selection of Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans as the new tenant of its school building drew sharp criticism Monday evening from the board of Milestone SABIS Academy, the school that has been in the building for several years.

Lycée Français announced Monday morning that the St. Francis of Assisi school building at State and Patton streets will be its new main campus starting next summer, and that it has space for 500 students, enough to accommodate several years of the school’s growth.

After a Monday night board meeting, the leaders of Milestone SABIS Academy issued their own announcement, saying that they only learned of the plans for the building through media reports, saying the church “opted to not negotiate the lease renewal in good faith.” The SABIS board pledged to find new space for their school in time to continue instruction without interruption.

The statement from Milestone SABIS Academy follows in its entirety:

After a nine year working relationship, Innovators in Milestone, Inc., the governing board for Milestone SABIS Academy in New Orleans, is disappointed to learn today through media reports that its landlord, St. Francis Assisi Catholic Church has decided to lease its school building to Lycee Francais de la Nouvelle-Orleans. Milestone has been a model tenant throughout its 9-year lease term with St. Francis and made several improvements to the facility that incurred to the benefit of the landlord. Despite our investments as well as the facts that St. Francis increased Milestone’s rent and opted to not negotiate the lease renewal in good faith, Milestone still fought to renew its lease with St. Francis to ensure that the children had an appropriate setting in which to learn.

The Board, however, is excited to announce that it is moving forward with its plans to expand the school by adding grade levels (eventually becoming a K-12 school). At tonight’s board meeting, the Board unanimously voted to advance plans to secure land for a new campus and facility, which will include a state-of-the art facility, travel convenience and more green space to accommodate current and future enrollment. Milestone’s Board of Directors and Staff are confident that the move to a permanent location will enable us to continue our pattern of providing an excellent education to the children we serve without interruption.

36 thoughts on “Milestone SABIS Academy criticizes church’s selection of Lycee Francais as new tenant for school

  1. If I’m not mistaken s similar ousting took place for CDP after a 30+ year lease. Looks like Lycee looks for elbow room and finds it again and again. That’s an interesting pattern of behavior, Lycee. “I hope you know this go down on your permanent record,” said Gordon Gano.

    • Dear Mr. Villere:

      Both First Presbyterian Church and St. Francis of Assisi were dissatisfied with their previous or current tenant for their own reasons. The *potential* of an available school facility came to the attention of Lycée Français supporters and discreet “feelers” were sent out. Lycée Français only took advantage of openings presented to it by others, and as a licensed Realtor/Broker, you appreciate the fiduciary responsibility that any landlord has to its own constituency and the public in general.

      Furthermore, as a Realtor/Broker you know when a Lease is up for renewal, it does not matter how long a tenant has been in a landlord’s space. What matters is how the landlord perceives that tenant’s stewardship of the landlord’s property and whether or not the landlord believes the tenant/landlord relationship is working. You are correct in asserting that for “30+ years” CDP was located at the First Presbyterian Church’s school building; however, 30 of those years occurred before Hurricane Katrina and with different operators. FPC is happy a responsible school is educating young children on the premises once again. Lycée Français did not “oust” CDP as you imply; CDP’s *Landlord* chose not to renew CDP’s lease. And that happened months before FPC signed a lease with Lycée Français. How does FPC’s action to safeguard its own interests reflect poorly upon Lycée Français?

      Lycée Français is a Type II Charter School and as such receives no help whatsoever from the State, the RSD, or OPSB while searching for and securing school facilities. It has done nothing wrong in its pursuit of school facilities; it has only taken advantage of opportunities presented, thought “outside the box” when necessary, and conducted itself as professionally as possible. From my sidewalk perspective, First Presbyterian Church’s site has seen nothing but much needed improvements, both exterior and interior, since Lycée Français assumed occupancy. I’m sure the stewardship of St. Francis of Assisi’s school building by Lycée Français will result in the same benefits to St. Francis of Assisi, its congregation, and the surrounding neighborhood. Isn’t that a good thing?

  2. I’m not sure how Lycée Français could “oust” a tenant from a building, since Lycée Français isn’t the landlord. The tenant typically has a lease with the landlord, so it must be the landlord’s decision not to renew the lease with the current tenant, not Lycée Français’. If you rent an apartment from a landlord who chose not to renew the lease of the previous tenant, is it you, the new tentant, who is “ousting” the previous one? I don’t think so.

  3. They tried to go behind Ecole Bilingue’s back last year too and oust them out of their preschool space. The lycee board talked to the pastor of parker methodist and offered the church a great three year deal.. Ecole bilingue, was blindsided, as well, and found out about this sceme when parents came back from the first organizational Lycee metting. The lycee claimed at the meeting they would be signing a lease a parker methodist the next week. The school would be just like EB even in the same building!!!!! If The lycee had not mentioned this at the meeting , I am sure EB would not have in their curent Perrier space either. I was accused down below of having a vendetta against lycee. I love French education, and was excite initially for New orleans when this school was announced., but this administration does not work well with the other French schools and do not care who they step on. This kind of behavior seems to be their MO. So disappointed.

    • Dear “kally”:

      You must be either afraid of change or attempting to slander “the competition” in hopes of damaging their prospects for success b/c your response shows a total lack of knowledge of the FACTS. You state:

      1) “They tried to go behind Ecole Bilingue’s back last year too and oust them out of their preschool space.” This is simply not true. As clearly refuted by “publicschoolmom” below, the EB leadership made it clear *to their own parent body* that they were going to move out of the Parker Memorial school facility and consolidate all EB operations at Gen. Pershing and Constance.

      2) “The lycee board talked to the pastor of parker methodist and offered the church a great three year deal.” “kally”, in a rant full of canards and prevarications, this one line of yours is true; in 2010 representatives of Lycée Français spoke with the Pastor of Parker Memorial and the Chairman of the P.M. Board of Trustees, W. T. Ballantine, *after* supporters of Lycée Français had been told EB was vacating the P.M. school building. Very shortly before P.M. and Lycée Français were to sign a lease, EB changed its mind (renovations to their expansion site were behind schedule) and committed to signing a long term lease of their own. Please note, fellow interested readers, EB was not *renewing* their lease because EB never had a long term lease with P.M; EB was only a “month-to-month” tenant. “kally”, I guess that’s why you claim Lycée Français “offered (Parker Memorial) a great three year deal…”, yeah, that’s much better than a month to month tenant!

      3) Well, of course, Lycée Français “… would be just like EB even in the same building!!!!!” since both are French Schools following the French National Curriculum and Lycée Français expected to sign a lease for the Parker Memorial school building.

      4) “…this administration does not work well with the other French schools and do not care who they step on.” In fact, “kally”, Lycée Français has reached out to all foreign language immersion schools in the Greater New Orleans area in an effort to forge alliances with these very specialized and academically demanding schools.

      I would expect that anyone who “love(s) French education, and was excite initially for New orleans when this school was announced” would not partake in unfounded and slanderous rumor mongering… unless they *wanted to see Lycée Français fail.*

      • In the Know,

        How is it you know all of the details of Ecole Bilingue’s lease? It makes absolutely no sense for any school to rent month to month. Where on earth did you receive this information? Especially if the said school spent a tremendous amount of money to upgrade their outdoor play area. From what I hear, they never intended to stop leasing the Perrier buillding. I think your “facts” are simply gossip. And, just so you know, I checked with several Ecole Bilingue families. Although it is true they were planning on bringing the majority of their students to one campus, they never intended on letting go of the Nashville location.

        • I was an EB parent, and it is true, we were told they were going to move out of the Perrier campus. I helped work on the new facility as well as the Gen. Persing campus. The 2010-2011 was supposed to be the last year at that facility. It was the plan before the year started. We were informed in several news letters. There were several plumbing problems and other issues and EB was doing their best to keep the perrier campus together. After the EB accounting scandal the board became very transparent with the budget and the various projects. The Perrier campus is expensive to maintain. There are very few upgrades to the facility other than those that the parents did to improve the campus. All large capital improvements have been focused on the Gen. Purshing campus.

          Lycee does compete for the same students, however the current market data available from public schools, shows a high demand for French immersion programs. At present, based on the data, all the immeresion classroom seats available does not meet the number of applicants each year. I grew up in the private schools system, I do not hear one Trinity, Newman, Country Day, St Georges, Stuart Hall, Sacret Heart, Mcgees, Jesuit, St. Martins parent complaining about any of the new CharterMagnet schools that have recently been created. Ben Franklin parents are not aggressive to the Haines school. So why is this school under such harsh critisism.

          Lycee is a year old, and has expanded into 2nd grade faster than projected because of demand. They have many growing pains and power struggles while the path is being paved for this newcommer. It has to be expected. However, look what comes out of competition. Both schools will be better for it. One day, when they both get more mature, it will be a great rivalry. Look to improve your own school or organization. Your efforts will improve your organization and their ability to compete. The other organization will do the same. Trying to create false roomers. and acusations says more about you.

          • Frank – very well said. And I ditto what you wrote about the Perrier campus; we were also at EB and we were told the same thing – that the creche, TPS, and PS were going to be moving to the rectory across the street from the Gen Pershing campus.

            Whatever the case – well said.

  4. Mr. Klinger:

    I believe the pattern of behavior indicates the Lycee board and the administration are culpable. Sabis also says they were blind sided. Hiding behind the actions of the land lords does not take away moral responsibility it only takes away legal responsibility.

    For example, if the devil makes me do something, as he occasionally does, both of us are responsible. The devil, in my humble opinion, is much worse because he keeps leading souls down the wrong path. So in those instaces where I transgress shame on devil and shame on me! Therefore, shame on St. Francis of Assisi and shame on the Lycee.

    My apologies for the religious reference…it seemed apropos.

  5. I’m so sad that this is being perceived by some in a negative way. Having spent over 15 years working as a teacher in the New Orleans public school system, I was thrilled to see a new school open with such an innovative curriculum. In the past, getting into a good public school was almost impossible due to the fact that the best public schools in New Orleans test the incoming 4 year olds (as ridiculous as that is), and only accept the highest performing kids. Along comes a new school with open enrollment and an extremely ambitious plan, an it is attacked over and over again. My understanding is that Milestone Sabis has outgrown this space and is looking for a new one. As far as EB goes, they began to lease a large building across the street form their current building on Gen Pershing, and they were telling the parents (I know, as I was one) that they would be moving into that space for the 2011-2012 school year. They did not move into that space, and therefore they needed to keep the Perrier space, but the original intention was to leave, so Lycee was not trying to “steal” the building away.

    Mr. Klingler is correct in saying that it is up to the owner of the building, not the tenant, to determine who leases the space. As someone who owns a small rental property myself, I would be furious if someone told me that I had to continue a lease with a tenant whose lease had run its course even though I had chosen another tenant. In all of these cases cited, Lycee is simply not at fault. I really wish people would investigate the facts before choosing to attack a school that promises to make such a positive impact on the New Orleans public school system, and which has already received positive international attention.

  6. I guess my question here is what constitutes a “good” public school. What would make someone “look” at Lycee and determine it is a “good” school when it has no track record. Hynes has an immersion program (I don’t think they test). ISL is an immersion program (may test…not clear on that one…). Audubon Charter has an immersion program (doesn’t test). All are really great schools with good reputations. This is Lycee’s first year in existence, there is no real proof that it is a “good” school. Crafty, clever, competitive maybe, but there is no proof of good yet. I still can’t help but think there is something to be concerned about when there are so many instances of other schools being undermined by this one group of people in the name of this one school. It makes me wonder what else to expect. Where there is smoke there is fire.

    • Read their mission statement and their plan for future growth, and you’ll see what makes me think they are good. They have a very well thought out, research backed curriculum. It’s not just that the kids will be fluent in French by grade 5 (and the plan is to introduce other languages in middle and high school), but the actual curriculum focuses on in-depth learning rather than the surface learning and blind focus on high stakes testing that many high performing schools are way too fast to unquestioningly adopt. I’m not saying that there aren’t other great public schools in New Orleans, I’m just saying that we should be happy to have a new one.

      • I think it is a shame that our schools need to go through this excruciating process to get a campus. The Orleans Parish School Board, as well as the Recovery School District have not done their job as far as making properties available and putting them into usable condition… (the Audubon Swing site debacle is perfect example). I mean all OPSB has to do is manage a hand full of schools and manage these properties and the renovations and they don’t seem to do it. There is NOOOOO coordination and it takes too long. I also think that perhaps these schools need to spread out. Do we need 3 French immersion charters uptown? I know Audubon is temporarily in Gentilly/ Lakeview (With Hynes in Lakeview), but maybe not all within such a small area.

        The other interesting part of the equation is the pre-k programs. I am not totally familiar with it, but I read an article that their admissions practices are being looked into. Hynes, Audubon, Lycee and Morris Jeff are the schools around here with Pre- k programs.

        My kids are at ISL. ISL is in the Andrew Jackson Building. That school was considered failing and ISL was able to obtain it during the huge “land grab” Post Katrina. This is actually the second phase of all of this.

        As for Lycee, it is on track to be like an ISL. ISL and Lycee were both started by disgruntled Audubon parents. ISL as only developmental readiness testing, not gifted testing. ISL has the second language as well as Chinese for everyone starting in 5th grade. We were also going to have a high school, but it is clear that it is YEARS away. We calculate we need to matriculate around 600 Kindergardeners in order to be able to fill an ISL high school with mostly our kids…. I am confident that Lycee has capable people and will do fine academically. Also, I think it is great that they are making things happen to find a school. I don’t think we’ll know if the churches sought out other tennants or vice versa. That would influence my opinion. I have also heard through the grapevine that there is a benefit to renting where a school was renting because the status of the school is grandfathered in… so there may be time and money saved in not having to renovate to code. I personally believe Lycee promised the current church a longer lease, I really don’t think they would have made the tennant move for a one year lease.

  7. Audubon has the same curriculum as the lycee, don’t fool yourself. Audubon is also accredited. This lycee group just wants a stand alone French school away from the Montesouri. It does not take a brain scientist to figure out why. Some of the current lycee board members tried to separate the Audubon school two years ago and wisely the FAME board did not allowed this to happen. Good luck, according to French education ministry guidelines, They cannot accredit public schools within 60 miles of each other.

    • You’re right in that they do have the same curriculum. My son was not accepted into Audubon for two years in a row because there wasn’t enough space for him. In fact, he was something like 76th on the waiting list. Clearly there’s a need for either Audubon to expand its program (which there were never plans to do; in fact, Audubon decreased the size of its French program while keeping the Montessori program intact) or create more spaces as this school has done.

  8. Lycee is a bougie charter with a student selection model designed to make admission accessible for the socioeconomic have’s, and barrier the have not’s. That combined with the history stated above leaves me with no sympathy for the adults visioning this school.

    • Ridiculous, Equity. Anyone who wanted to get into Kindergarten at Lycee this year got in. There were even extra spaces left over. And no testing. How is that any kind of a “student selection model?” There was no selection whatsoever. You wanted to go; you got to go. That’s been the most equitable process I have experienced so far.

      • Yes, but WHO knew about this school this year. They were new as of last summer. There were no banners up on Claiborne announcing their presence (there still aren’t). Last time I looked I could not find them on the BESE website. Only friends of friends were aware the new program existed, and next year ALL of Lycee’s tuition paying pre-k 4 students have been promised they will have a place in Kindergarten. So even though they have finally announced (conceded) to have a lottery for those K spaces, they will have at least 1 full class maybe 2 of tuition paying kids who already have had a year of French. What will Lycee do if they get 200 applications for Kindergarten this year? One of their tuition paying pre-k kids may not get a spot in the lottery. I cannot imagine that they will have 9 kindergarten classes… Maybe that is why they have moved their application period back to December 1 from January and kept the period less than 45 days (ending January 9). An application period over the holidays, moved a month earlier, is sure to elliminate some applications…. And if they do not fill their kindergarten easily this year, then we know something is wrong with their recruiting efforts, if not their property hunting efforts. Seems to me that with all the “out of the box” thinking that is happening in an effort to get a building, they are forgetting that they need to be getting a diverse (racially and financially) population of students to go in to the building…

        • I know someone in pre-k there who was recently told all students must enter the lottery for K. She believes that this will actually occur.

          Also, Diversity is great. The “Uptownie” Charter schools don’t really shoot for diversity. I don’t think it is a specific goal. But they have convaluded admissions processes (supposedly be unified this year) and it they don’t do a great job getting the word out. Also, if there is a “gifted” path (Lusher or the Pre-K programs at Hynes and Audubon, this will always be a filter. At age 3, these kids aren’t gifted, they are merely on track and stimulated. Disadvantaged kids are left out, and they need Pre-K more than anyone. I hope one day the state allows more schools to open pre-k programs so that more of our kids can be brought into a great school environment earlier. I hope one day we spaces go unfilled b/c we have sufficient excellent education for everyone.

          My kids go to ISL which is actually a TITLE I school. The school must admit 51% under-served. We have a very diverse population that is very representative of the community we live in AND any kid in the state of Louisiana can attend.

        • This is quoted from ‘Cover it Live’–Lycee Board Meeting on Nov. 14:

          “As the school begins recruiting for next year, officials are visiting a local HeadStart program this week to describe what LFNO offers.”
          See ‘Cover It Live’ toward the bottom for more info:

          The state controls when Lycee can start accepting applications. See the article ‘State won’t let Lycee Francais Charter School start accepting applications until January..’ at

          Other schools such as ISL & Audubon started accepting applications in October, but the state wouldn’t allow Lycee even though they wanted to do the same. I am not sure how Lycee was able to push the date back to December 1. ISL & Audubon both will quit accepting applications on Jan. 13 and Lycee on Jan. 9.

          • ISL, like Lycee Francais is a Type II Charter School and both follow the CHARTER SCHOOL DEMONSTRATION
            PROGRAMS LAW. ANY charter school, regardless of Type, must follow this law and the State, through the DoEd and Office of Parental Options monitors all charter schools for compliance with this law.

            The State controls when ALL charters can start accepting applications via the Charter School Law. Lycee Francais was the ONLY charter school prepared to follow a September “Notice of Interpretation” that charter schools could not accept applications prior to January 1. When the State learned that many powerful and entrenched charters (Audubon, Hynes, ISL, Lusher to name a few) would accept apps as early as October and would not cancel or delay their app periods – no matter what the State did or said – the State “changed its mind” and notified Lycee Francais it could move up its start date. Lycee’s application acceptance date (set by Lycee Francais and not the State) is still two months behind competing charter schools, which puts Lycee at a clear disadvantage. Further more, the Charter School law states an app period must be at least 30 days and no more than 90, so Lycee Francais’s app period of 45 days falls within those guidelines.

          • Tuition is only for PreK3 and PreK4 because the state is not required to fund PreK education. Tuition for PreK 4 is waived if the child qualifies for free lunch. No three year old is given free education except possibly Headstart programs which are also limited. This program is actually cost effective for those that fall in the middle and have no options. If you think that tuition is high, you have not done much research on the cost of education.

          • Equity, tuition is because the Jindal cute funding for prek. They will have to lottery and readmit because K is real school admission, ie mandatory. They are not charging because they want to.

          • Suzanne,

            You are absolutely correct. However last year when I told my freinds about the lycee, I did not see that stated anywhere on the application, the website, the state’s website…At the development meetings prior to the lycee taking applications, it was never said. I know because I was there with my son. So, how exactly were families that qualified for free lunch supposed to know that they could attend the pre-k program free of charge?

        • Who KNEW about the school? Seriously?? Well, I found out about it by reading the Times-Picayune. Ever heard of it? It’s pretty underground!

          I do not live in Orleans Parish, and this is my first experience with a charter school and with a language immersion curriculum. I did not know a single other family when I sent in my application. I am not rich, connected, “elite” (whatever that means) or particularly special.

          These negative, erroneous comments are baseless, destructive and tiresome. Troll on, Nola.

          • I have to agree…anyone that was applying for their child to kindergarten last year, and keeping abreast of the public education options in NOLA, knew about this new school.

            I believe parents may have been reluctant to apply to a new school whose future (academic success, staff, campus, etc.) was uncertain. Now that it is proving to be a successful endeavor, perhaps some regret not pursuing this educational option last year?

  9. Nola – my child attends pre-K4 at LFNO. We found out about the school through a very prominently placed Times Pic story (front page of the Metro section) based on a press release from the school – so the school clearly wasn’t trying to limit itself to “friends of friends” (otherwise our daughter wouldn’t be there). In fact, we did not know any of the other parents of children at the school before meeting some of them at the start of the school year.

    I do agree that the school must take additional steps to increase the diversity of the student population, and I am sure they will do so – if not, they will find themselves facing potential non-renewal of the charter after their initial five year contract expires (there are state requirements regarding the “at risk” student population in Type 2 charters). As Wendy mentioned, this year every child who wanted to attend the school was provided a space; if recruiting efforts are made to target the required “at risk” student population, the school’s diversity should be improved.

    As far as the school not being on the BESE website, that is unsurprising – no schools are actually listed on the BESE website. The LDOE site (which hosts the BESE site) does provide data on school performance, but this data is only available for schools that have actually had students take the state standardized tests – meaning that there is presently no such data for LFNO, or for any school who did not have students in the third grade or above last year.

    In fact, I think this exercise in website searching shows one gap in the current system – in Orleans Parish, there are 40-odd RSD schools, 10 independent Type 2 charters, and 15 or so schools under OPSB, but there is no single government website of which I’m aware that identifies and provides information on all of these schools for Orleans Parish families.

    • The 2011 New Orleans Parent’s Guide to Public Schools lists Lycee Francais in it, page 41. This guide list all of the public schools in New Orleans. It also lists the data of each school from ethnicity percentage to Free-Reduced percentage.

      There are actually very few schools with diversity. Maybe some of you so concerned with the diversity of Lycee should take a look at the majority of the other schools and go after their diversity. Between 95%-99% of any one of the listed ethnicities constitutes non diversity to me.
      One of the most diverse schools in the guide is ILS.

  10. As a grandmother of a PreK3 student at LFNO, I must say that I think they are doing something right to get these kind of reactions. I question the motives of many of the critics. They come across as negative, spiteful and jealous, not taking the time to actually do research on the facts. LFNO was advertised in the newspaper last January shortly after receiving their charter. They had a short timeline to get up and running so “recruiting” at risk children was difficult. I am not sure what people expect an at risk child to look like. I have never actually seen a definition, but to keep true diversity in New Orleans schools, we have to attract all tyes of students including those whose parents have scrimped and saved to send them to private or parochial schools in the past or worse simply moved across the lake. The people complaining seem to want to put everyone in the category of “rich uptown” or “black at risk”. There is obviously a large demand for schools like LFNO and Audubon Charter or these schools would not have such an easy time filling their rolls. I think it would be better if everyone stopped the sniping and continued to work for the improvement of New Orleans public schools that began after Katrina.

    • I agree with you Suzanne. I am happy we have yet another school open to kids in Orleans parish that is a viable option because they are super excited about teaching the kids and have high goals for the program and the students. Actually, the schools uptown always fell into the “feels like private but is public” and the “stereotypical underfunded underperforming public” that no one who had a choice would want to send their kids to. Now we all have choice. The district system is broken and there are a lot of seats. I hope that over the next few years the non Title I schools (the ones who must be fair, but actually don’t have to be diverse if a variety of people don’t fit their matrix or apply) find a way to incorporate a population that is more representative of New Orleans. It is really easy to have as an MO to attract and admit the city’s most advantages and then teach them and have them succeed. It is much harder to take kids who have challenges (they are homeless, their parents are illiterate, their parents work jobs that don’t let them make it to parent teacher meetings, that have not been stimulated academically before Kindergarten…..) and still have them succeed.

      As far as demand. I have been following the admissions processes at these schools for the last 4-5 years, as my kids were getting admitted (ISL). Consistently, there have been around 300 apps to theses schools to fill 100 spots. Audubon and ISL don’t Test, Lusher does so not all of these applicants were eligible. This tells me that of course Lycee and Morris Jeff should find it pretty easy to get students. These numbers are not necessarily taking into account the under served population. Even though one day Lusher will get 100 more seats, there is still probably room for a more of these schools. As people have choice, the failing schools go away and are replace by ones people want to send their kids to.

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