Lycee Francais seeks to add second and third grades, drop French-proficiency requirement for first grade

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Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans will seek permission to add a second and third grade to its new campus next year, and also plans to drop a French proficiency requirement for incoming first-grade students, officials decided Monday.

Though its initial plans were only to add a first grade next year, the school has already received 31 applications for second grade and 17 for third grade, board member Jean Montes reported on Monday. “Without even advertising for the upper grades, we have received unsolicited applications for several upper grades with the strongest interest in grades 2 and 3,” he wrote in a draft request to the state Department of Education.

Montes’ proposal would also create a tutoring program to prepare the new third grade students for state standardized tests.

“I think we have the obligation to respond to the people in this community who are asking us for solutions in terms of options,” Montes said at Monday’s meeting.

Board member Paige Saleun strongly agreed, urging the others to act on the request quickly to get it before the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in time to add the grades this fall.

“I think we need to move forward on this,” Saleun said. “I think we need to let people know.”

School director Jean-Jacques Grandiere and principal Jill Otis were more cautious, especially about adding a third grade. Otis noted that the applications for third grade so far were not really enough for a full class, and said she worried about creating the need to search for a new facility to soon after the school moves into the St. Francis of Assisi building next year.

“I think we can handle one more grade in particular,” Otis said.

State standardized testing that leads to school rankings begins in the third grade, which means the school’s first test results would come from students it had less than a year to instruct, Grandiere said.

“My concern is about the test, and the results for kids that we did not prepare,” Grandiere says.

Board member Kenneth Charity said he shared Grandiere’s concerns about the third grade, though it didn’t seem to affect the second grade. He also asked how the school could support the decision financially, and when board treasurer Mighnon Tourne said she had yet to run an analysis of it, Charity asked if the decision to request the new grades was “premature.”

Tourne replied that a request for state permission to add the grades does not necessarily mean that LFNO is committing to do so, so time for a more complete evaluation remains.

“This motion gives us the ability to unlock the gate if we want to,” Tourne said. “It’s not saying we’re going to unlock the gate.”

The board voted without opposition to send the request to the state. The Department of Education will have to evaluate it first, then forward it to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for a decision. BESE’s January meeting is next week, and then it will not reconvene until March — and the Lycee board members were unsure whether their request could be added to January’s agenda.

What will be on January’s BESE agenda is a request to remove a requirement of French proficiency for incoming first grade students from the school’s charter. The state Department of Education has told school leaders that such a requirement would mean that enrollment at LFNO is not considered open, jeopardizing a $200,000 funding stream, said board chair Andrew Abrams.

The board had intended its first grade admissions process to be completely open anyway, Abrams said, and the board quickly voted to support removing the French proficiency requirement. Asked after the meeting whether French proficiency would be required in upper grades, Abrams said it is too soon to say and that the foremost issue was removing it for first grade.

To read our live coverage of Monday’s meeting, click in the box below.

  Lycee Francais governing board January meeting (01/09/2012) 
Good evening. I’m Robert Morris of and I’m at Lycee Francais for the January meeting of its governing board.
Monday January 9, 2012 5:59 
The board has just walked in, so the meeting should be starting momentarily.
Monday January 9, 2012 5:59 
They’ve promised a quick meeting “for the sake of the LSU game.”
Monday January 9, 2012 6:00 
From the last board meeting at the end of the year, board chair Andrew Abrams says there’s been a lot of progress on a number of projects.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:01 
There were 150 people at the last open house for admissions, he says.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:01 
But recruiting and outreach needs to be a constant theme, he says.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:01 
Abrams says there was some confusion with the Department of Education about whether LFNO will be “open enrollment” next year.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:03 
The school will be open enrollment for first grade, he says, and there will be a motion tonight to clarify that.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:03 
First the board is hearing Principal Jill Otis’s report. She mentions a conference that Jean-Jacques may be attending and a recent workshop for teachers on behavior management.

The school has a new sign, she notes, created by folk artist Simon Hardeveld.

Monday January 9, 2012 6:07 
The school’s first French classes for parents (and two staff members) will be starting soon.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:08 
The only testing that will be done for kindergarten students is the DIBELS test, and the results will be shared with parents.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:08 
Today at 4 p.m. was the close of the school’s application period.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:09 
Back to Abrams: He’s been speaking to St. Francis of Assisi, and the board will be able to do a walkthrough of the new campus on State Street in a month or so, he says.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:10 
Moving on to the idea of introducing new grade levels.
“It’s an exploration,” notes board member Allen Kelly, “of the potential and possibility.”
Monday January 9, 2012 6:11 
Board member Jean Montes, who’s been leading the effort, says, “We’ve come to the conclusion that the demand is there.”
Monday January 9, 2012 6:11 
He lists numbers of interested students ranging around the high teens for upper grades — I believe he said 17 or 18 for third grade, for example.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:12 
And that’s without advertising the openings, he notes.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:13 
Abrams says a first step will be a formal recommendation from the school administration.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:13 
“I think we need to move forward on this,” says board member Paige Saleun. “I think we need to let people know.”
Monday January 9, 2012 6:14 
The department of education requires facilities, finances and demand, Saleun says, and the school can show each.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:14 
Kelly asks about the need for a material amendment to the school’s charter, and the timeline for working with the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:15 
“We do need to provide some energy and focus in accelerating our classes, but I’m not prepared to make a vote to submit a request in January to BESE,” Abrams replies.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:16 
Montes volunteers to begin speaking to Department of Education officials about the exact process.

“I think we have the obligation to respond to the people in this community who are asking us for solutions in terms of options,” Montes says.

Monday January 9, 2012 6:17 
Board member Catherine MacPhaille says she’d like to hear from Grandiere and Otis about the idea.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:19 
Otis says “there have been quite a few application we’ve received from second grade in particular.”
Monday January 9, 2012 6:19 
“I think we can handle one more grade in particular,” Otis says.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:20 
With third grade, Otis says “we don’t have enough for a class.” The board members reply that there’s 17 or 18 potential students, but Otis moves on.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:20 
She’s also concerned about filling up the new building too quickly.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:21 
Grandiere says he has some concern that the state’s standardized testing begins in third grade, and the school won’t have been training them in earlier grades.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:21 
“My concern is about the test, and the results for kids that we did not prepare,” Grandiere says.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:22 
“It’s been a tremendous success story, but it’s also frustrating, because we’re getting all these applications,” Otis says.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:23 
[Comment From LizLiz: ] 

How many students can their new building support?

Monday January 9, 2012 6:23 Liz
Liz – my recollection is 500.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:23 
Kelly asks whether CODOFIL will be able to provide teachers for the school if the new grade isn’t approved until so late in the year.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:25 
Abrams points out that the amendment already pending before the board right now is “critical,” worth about $200,000, and he’s not sure about sending them a request for another amendment so soon.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:26 
But if the board waits another month, it’ll be mid-February before anyone in Baton Rouge sees it. And, there’s no BESE meeting scheduled for February.

“We just want to get it in their hands,” Saleun says.

Monday January 9, 2012 6:27 
It could be March before BESE even sees it, several board members conclude.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:28 
Saleun suggests a motion giving Abrams the authority to request the ability to accelerate to second or third grade next year
Monday January 9, 2012 6:29 
It may also be just second grade, Abrams says.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:29 
Montes reiterates that the board hasn’t even advertised. Saleun also says the number of interested second-graders is more than 30.

“We have a school that people are very adamant about wanting to be a part of,” Montes says.

Monday January 9, 2012 6:33 
Kelly says he doesn’t want to vote on anything he hasn’t seen.

A copy of Montes’ report is being distributed to the board now.

Monday January 9, 2012 6:34 
The report states that there were 31 applications for second grade.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:35 
The report also recommends tutoring program to prepare third grade students for the iLEAP standardized test.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:36 
Board member Mignhon Tourne asks for clarification about whether the administration agrees with the report that LFNO has the facilities for the added grades.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:38 
Kelly replies that by the fourth year, the school will have to be seeking a second facility.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:38 
“This motion gives us the ability to unlock the gate if we want to,” Tourne recaps. “It’s not saying we’re going to unlock the gate.”
Monday January 9, 2012 6:39 
Board member Kenneth Charity asks Grandiere to elaborate on the LEAP issue.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:40 
The iLEAP is taken in the third grade, he says.

“We don’t want to affect the education in the school with a grade that we get from students that we have not really prepared,” Grandiere says.

Monday January 9, 2012 6:41 
The test is critical to the institution’s reputation, Charity says. “I’m concerned about that,” Charity says. “Second grade, I’m not.”
Monday January 9, 2012 6:43 
Charity asks if the school is financially prepared. “Yes, we are,” Montes says.

Charity asks Tourne, the board treasurer. She says she hasn’t analyzed it yet. “We haven’t had a chance to really project and evaluate yet,” Tourne says.

Monday January 9, 2012 6:45 
Is the decision premature? asks Charity.

Well, it’s just a motion to explore the idea further, not to execute it, Tourne replies.

Monday January 9, 2012 6:46 
Montes suggests calling for a vote, and Charity says he still has questions.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:47 
MacPhaille is asking the board to clarify the motion.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:48 
It’s for Abrams to sign the material amendment to be submitted.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:49 
Kelly returns to the timeline question. If BESE doesn’t take it up in January and waits until March, is it too late to get teachers?

It’s too late to get CODOFIL teachers, Otis clarifies.

“It’s very tricky to get teachers from France after March 1,” Grandiere adds.

Monday January 9, 2012 6:51 
The process is for the school to submit the application to the Department of Education, and then they make a formal recommendation to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Abrams says.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:54 
How long that actually takes, Abrams says, is completely unknown.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:54 
The next BESE meeting is Jan. 17. Abrams will be attending because of the other amendment relating to the school’s funding.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:55 
Abrams is asking whether the resolution as stated allows for changes to the wording of the request.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:56 
The motion passes without opposition, though Abrams abstains.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:57 
Moving on.
Monday January 9, 2012 6:58 
The charter application calls for first grade to have a language proficiency requirement, Abrams says. That would keep the school from being open enrollment, so the Department of Education has asked that the requirement be removed.

Abrams said the board had been planning to be open enrollment for first grade anyway, and the vote passes unanimously.

Monday January 9, 2012 7:00 
That’s it for the meeting. Thanks for reading
Monday January 9, 2012 7:01 




11 thoughts on “Lycee Francais seeks to add second and third grades, drop French-proficiency requirement for first grade

  1. BIG kudos to the board for listening to the needs of the community. It was refreshing to read the live coverage of the meeting (thanks, Robert!) and see that this board actually LISTENS and talks out what the needs of the community are instead of being so negative and shooting down every idea. THIS is what the New Orleans education system needs – a positive move in the right direction to meet the needs of the community, not shut people out and deny a choice for their children. Exactly what the charter movement is about = giving parents a choice for their children. And I realize that the curriculum is a very specialized one, but that DOES meet the needs of the Louisiana community and now our children have a choice, in the public sector, other than Audubon.

    And another kudos to the school for finding a new site to house the school as it grows – the building looks like it will be a very positive place for a learning environment: safe, clean, and an outdoor area to play.

    A new day for education in Louisiana!

  2. Does unsolicited include putting the call for older grades on their facebook site non advertising? I am sure the lycee will take down their call for the applications once this is read. Does unsolicited mean , that lycee board members encouraging parents will older kids at other French school to apply for older grades so that they can show BESE “the need” unsolicited ( and possible grades for their own children to have) Please do your homework uptownmessenger.This is smoke and mirrors.

    One other question, open erollment is fantastic for first grade, But how will any non french kids be able to apply for those spots if the application process is now closed and the charter currently reads “french proficiency” needed for first. Will they reopen applications for first grade and advertise once they recieve the amendment change? Again, uptownmessenger, please ask this question.

    • Kally:

      Your comment asking “Does unsolicited include putting the call for older grades on their facebook site non advertising?”, implies that you found an advertisement placed by LFNO seeking applicants for grades past 1st Grade. Where on the LFNO Facebook page is this advertisement? Surely you are not referring to the headline of Uptown Messenger’s coverage of the latest LFNO Bd. meeting, are you? Your comment is of course intended to discredit Lycee Francais just as your further comment “I am sure the lycee will take down their call for the applications once this is read” is intended to challenge LFNO’s integrity. The only “call for applications” anywhere on the LFNO Facebook page clearly states “Pre-K – 1st Grade”. Why would they remove a perfectly legal and permitted notice seeking Applications for the coming school year?

      Finally, the LA Charter School Law’s preamble states the law is intended to encourage competition, not limit it. Do you really think 48+ applications for 2nd and 3rd grade came from individuals that are pleased with their child’s current school? Perhaps YOU should get YOUR facts straight. Uptown Messenger gets its facts while attending LFNO Board meetings and by directly asking the Board questions; where do you get your “facts”? Perhaps you should speak to the parents of children attending LFNO; you might find out why LFNO will have 100% retention of the current student body. How many schools can make that statement?

  3. I am one of many hoping Lycee will add upper grades ASAP. I’m being faced with possibly leaving the French program altogether, as I can’t tolerate dropping my child off at Audubon’s Carrolton Campus for another year.

  4. Kally- I did’t see anything on the school’s FB page specifically calling for older grades to apply. All I did see was a link to an Uptown Messenger article that covered their board meeting where adding grades was discussed as a possibility. However, they link back to all their board meeting coverage, so that one wasn’t specifically linked randomly. Besides that, why wouldn’t a school announce anything related to them on their own FB page? In fact, I’ve seen posts and reminders on Lycee’s FB page in support of other French school’s events, such as EB’s Fete Francaise and Audubon’s Movie night and Book Fair, call me crazy, but that seems pretty magnanimous of them to post.

    On another note, it blows my mind when I read all the comments to stories about Lycée Francais – so much negativity, bitterness and cattiness. That must mean Lycée is doing something right to evoke such hatred.; people don’t usually hate unless they see something as a threat.

    I don’t know about the unsolicited recruiting going on at other French schools, but there is simply nothing to worry about if the parents are happy where they are, right? People don’t walk away from something if they are in a happy place, that’s just common sense. And if any French schools see a decrease in enrollment for next year, instead of placing the blame on the other school(s), maybe they should look within and evaluate what they can do to make themselves better and more marketable. And what they can do to better satisfy and retain students/parents. If their first instinct is to blame the other guy, then something is seriously wrong with that picture and that attitude and maybe that’s why people want to leave.

    I’m just wondering why some of the French schools don’t get together and pool their resources to be an über-French school.

  5. I agree w/ Mary if people weren’t happy then they wouldn’t be leaving their already established schools. I am a parent at Lycee and I’m happy with our progress so far and how fast we are growing. I just hope we can keep up with the pace we are establishing. Also please understand that with Jefferson Parish SB deciding that immersion is going to be handled by ISL in their parish, residents have another option with Lycee being a type 2 charter. Let’s not forget that all LA residents are able to attend this school and it shouldn’t be considered an “Orleans” school but a regional school.

  6. Absolutely Mary. If parents are unhappy with a school, they should transfer their children to where they believe the children can get the best education possible…hopefully leaving expeditiously.

    Why wait 2-3 years?
    Why wait until the end of the school year?

    • “Why wait 2-3 years?
      Why wait until the end of the school year?” –Rose

      So let me get this straight – if parents are dissatisfied with a school and they voice their concerns because they want change, your answer is for them to leave? Why not ask why aren’t they happy? What can be done to appease them? Why not make some concessions to try to retain them instead of letting them walk away?

      Rose, I have no idea if you’re associated with any particular school, but I certainly hope you won’t be complaining when people start leaving now that they have another option for their children.

    • Based on your comments on many Lycee posts, you appear to be a parent at Audubon, why are the Audubon families so threatened with this new school? Especiall those in the non French school. If we had French schools where I live,the demand would be as big as it is here and 1 school would not be enough. It is appearing that they are high in demand here inNew Orleans as well and there are not enough of them. You should be happy that there is competion for your school, it keeps the powers that be on their toes. In my keeping up with other public charter schools, which are in competion too, I never see the slanderous comments that it appears, the Audubon parents post on any publicity about Lycee Francais. Sorry for you. As you stated, why wait? I am sure that they would leave faster if there were other options, be careful what you ask for, God works in mysterious ways.

      • I have great interest in seeing New Orleans’ public schools thrive. I think every child has a right to excellent, free education.

        I truly believe that unhappy parents should seek out other options after an attempt to resolve differences or concerns in a calm and respectful manner. If no resolution is achieved, parents should move on. It’s best for all involved. As far as Audubon, ISL, Ecole Bilingue, they will survive this transition too.

        Furthermore, if LFNO manages to pull a class full of Audubon 2nd graders, they’ll sail through the 3rd grade iLEAP.

        French immersion programs aren’t as much in demand as you suggest. Retention drops off over several years and upper grades are typically smaller in number. They’re numbers can’t compare to regular schools. These children cannot be replaced unless they are fluent in that language. So if you start out with selective admissions, no service is done to the community. Likewise if actively recruiting students from other programs is needed , instead of relying on a great reputation to attract new students, there probably isn’t an overwhelming need for the program. I do not wish to make that argument on one side or the other however.

        Overall, it makes for a healthier environment when dissatisfied parents transfer the children to the school of their choosing. No one should argue with that.

  7. Rose you are so right! I know nothing of you but you just hit a home run!
    You seem smart. I agree with all your points.
    Best of luck!

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