Principal to leave French charter school at year’s end

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The founding principal of Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans will leave the school at year’s end, board members said Monday night in an announcement that raised questions from several audience members.

The board spent about 20 minutes in a closed-door executive session discussing principal Jill Otis, and when they returned, outgoing board chair Andrew Abrams announced that Otis has submitted her resignation. “With the utmost respect and admiration,” Abrams said, the board voted unanimously to accept her decision.

Otis was not present at the meeting. The board had previously discussed her employment in a closed-door session during a special meeting last week, but she has not commented publicly on the situation.

During this week’s meeting, the board offered little by way of explanation for the change. In his opening report prior to the executive session, Abrams mentioned that the school is transitioning from a start-up phase to longer-term planning. In response to a suggestion from the audience that a meeting be held for parents to explain the change, Abrams said an update will be sent out this week.

One audience member — who declined to speak to a reporter after the meeting — said he understood Otis to be “devastated” by the decision, and that he found the change “troublesome.” He asked the board for more explanation, but the board members simply thanked him for his comments without addressing his statements directly.

The board elected current member Jean Montes to succeed Abrams as their chairman, and in an interview after the meeting Montes said the change in leadership is related to the school’s growth.

“In terms of the long-term vision of the organization, it was part of the plan,” Montes said. “She has taken the steps to allow us to start putting a process in place to stabilize our long-term plan. Hopefully, within the next few months, we will find a director that is more aligned with where we are moving to.”

School director Jean-Jacques Grandiere will continue to lead the school during its transition, the board decided in a separate vote.

“He’s very committed,” Montes said. “We hope he’ll be here for many years.”

Otis was previously a co-founder of Audubon Montessori School before helping launch Lycée Français this past fall, according to the school’s website. “She has demonstrated an abiding commitment, deep interest, and love of our proposed school by becoming the principle author of the Education section and has had significant involvement in all facets of our school charter,” it reads.

Update, 9:05 a.m. Monday: The board issued the following statement Monday morning:

The Board of Directors announced on Monday night that Lycée Français’ Founding Principal/CEO, Jill Otis, has submitted her resignation. Principal Otis played a crucial role in securing Lycée Français’ charter, bringing to the task her invaluable experience as a founder and long-time principal of Audubon Montessori and the Ecole Franco-Américaine, the first school in Louisiana to offer the French national curriculum. Lycée Français is deeply grateful to Principal Otis for her dedication to public French language education of the highest quality and for her sustained efforts to make Lycée Français a resounding success. Please join the Board, faculty, and staff in expressing our sincere appreciation to Principal Otis for all she has done to help to launch Lycée Français and put it on a solid foundation.

The Board has already begun working to put in place an administrative structure that will allow us to take the next step in our evolutionary growth and continued success. On Monday evening the Board voted to name our capable and highly respected Directeur, Jean-Jacques Grandière, to the position of Interim General Director until further notice. Effective immediately, General Director Grandière will be in charge of Lycée Français’ operations, and all Lycée Français faculty and staff will report to him.

Lycée Français ends its first year in a position of great strength, poised to move forward with confidence into a phase of growth and exciting challenges. We look forward to continuing our steady progress towards the ultimate goal of a high-quality French school education for all, from Pre-K through the baccalauréat.

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

67 thoughts on “Principal to leave French charter school at year’s end

  1. I have no idea what the whole story is but I can’t imagine someone as knowledgeable and professional as Ms. Otis being “fired”. I have been very happy with Lycee Francais and I surely hope the school is going to grow beautifully in spite of her absence.

  2. It seems to me this is not a very professional board. In an article on The Lens, it was noted they went into Executive Session last month to discuss a personnel matter relating to Jill Otis and her …..”mental health” which was included in an e-mail between board members. This may not be why they were meeting, but why refer to something like that in an e-mail. These people have not respect for the knowledge and experience that Jill Otis brings and have treated her in an disrespectful and unprofessional manner. They need to get rid of the board and start over.

    • NOLA Mama – I don’t know if you’re familiar with LA Open Meetings law, but that quote that was in the Lens story (that they have since removed because it sounded confusing), “Discussion of the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health…” is a direct quote from the actual law and explained one of the many reasons why a public board meeting can enter into executive session to discuss a personnel matter. I don’t think the board meant any harm to Ms. Otis, they simply were quoting the law.

      From what I know of the school and the board of directors, I think the Lycee Francais will be an extremely successful school and the community will greatly benefit from it.

    • The writing was on the wall for MS Otis. She seemed to question the board and disagree with growing The school too large too fast. She did not seem to agree with adding a second grade. Maybe in her wisdom she could see that this does not create good relationships with other French Schools and certainly does not help this school out with its diversity problem that they already have. If the lens wrote publicly that the board was discussing her Mental health, one must question this board’s competence to let this out to the public. Is it possible that the president is stepping down because he is worried about the fall out? Could MS Otis sue for defamation? This school will double in size next year, take on a new facility, have a new board president…. Jill maybe you were right to resign and maybe you should sit back and watch the reprecussions of them not taking your advice.

  3. As a Lycee parent, I have been very happy with the school and Mrs. Otis, but I agree about some members of the board. While Mrs. Otis does not appear to have issues regarding her mental heath, I have heard horror stories from my friends at Audubon where one of the board members sends her kids. This woman did appear unhinged during a talk at a PTO meeting at Lycee. What I find very strange is that I began to receive emails for her restaurant soon after I enrolled my child. While I never even thought about sending my preschooler anywhere else for kindergarten, I am starting to wonder if I made the right choice.

  4. This plot and the way it was carried out reveal the ignorance, incompetence and cowardice of the LFNO board. Does anyone on this board have Mrs. Otis’s 30 years of school administrative experience? Do they have 30 years collectively? Do they have five? Do they have one? LFNO parents would be wise to question the board’s ability and motivation. These people are in over their heads, but they are too power-drunk, and their egos too inflated, to realize it. This board is a runaway clown car packed with self-important fools. And after such a promising start. Shame.

  5. As the primary writer of the Lycee Francais charter, I am angry and deeply disappointed with the LFNO “runaway” board and its recent decisions. Even more so, I am thoroughly disgusted that I participated in the effort to get this school chartered. Ironically, some of the founders wanted Lycee created because of bad decisions made by the board of a charter school their children were and, in some cases, are currently attending. Having sat on the LFNO board for more than a year, I recognized just how a bit of power corrupts individuals. I suggested many times that the board amend its by-laws to prohibit parents of LFNO students to serve as board members. Unfortunately, human nature is what it is, and parents who sit on charter school boards make decisions that are in their childrens’ best interests, not the schools re: the premature expansion to the second grade.

    I heard repeatedly during training sessions that the failure of a charter school can be attributed to a dysfunctional board of directors. I am now a believer. Too many charter schools throughout LA are composed of board members who refuse to recognize that their only duties are to create policy, hire and evaluate a CEO/Principal, and NOT to micromanage the day to day operation of the school. Unfortunately, all of the current LFNO board members lack the competence and experience to evaluate any CEO/Principal. The LFNO board has violated the public trust by selfishly making decisions to suit their own best interests. Shame on them. If I were a parent whose child attends LFNO, I would demand that all board members resign and begin anew.

  6. Ms. Van Buskirk- As one of Ms. Otis’ close personal friends for several decades and since “human nature is what it is”, I doubt your ability to be objective on this matter. Additionally, your lack of professionalism is shocking- to speak so openly and negatively about decisions made by a board you have not been involved with for over a year displays a serious lack of judgement.

    • Michel,

      Joyous has been involved for years in the public school sector. Read her bio as she has earned the ability to evaluate and pass judgement on what just went down at the LFNO. As a co-writer of the charter, and a former board member, I would think she does know what she is talking about. Unfortunately she was also manipulated by some poeple who have had a pattern of causing trouble.This is no secret. To say that Joyous has not been on the board for over a year makes it sound like this school has been around for years. She left just as the school opened and The school has not been open a year. If you are the same Michael whose. wife is the English teacher at Lycee, you should claim that you also have an a special allegiance to this school too.

      • Just for the record: I’m the spouse of the teacher called out in a previous post, and not the same “Michael” who has posted in this thread. As you may know, it is a rather common name, but thanks for thinking of me and my “allegiances” all the same.

    • That’s rich, Michael. Since she has not been on the board for a year, a former board member should not speak “openly and negatively about decisions made by a board.” Can she speak openly and positively? I’m sure you’d be fine with that. So the only board members who are qualified to speak negatively about the board are those who have been involved with within the past year, i.e., current board members. How clever! How convenient!

      One of the points in Ms. Van Buskirk’s post is objectively true or false, and her friendship with Mrs. Otis has no bearing on it: “[P]arents who sit on charter school boards make decisions that are in their childrens’ best interests, not the schools re: the premature expansion to the second grade.”

      Stripping all subjectivity from the statement, a couple of “yes or no” questions come to mind: Does one or more LFNO board members have a child who will be joining the 2nd grade class? Did that LFNO board member vote or otherwise push for the expansion to second grade?

      And then if both answers are yes, the follow up question: Are these board members making decisions in the best interests of the school and its students or in the best interests of themselves?

      It’s time for parents to start asking questions — after all, it is their school — and it is past time for this board to answer for their actions. As successful as the first year was, LFNO is in a precarious position. Having competent, honest board members would be a step in the right direction.

  7. Ms. Van Buskirk, you are a breath of fresh air in what seems to be a lot of deception. And Michael, it does not bother me if Ms. V B may be a friend of Ms. Otis (although I don’t know this for myself). As an LFNO parent, I’m very much interested in hearing Ms. Otis’ side. I certainly don’t see Ms. V B’s post as a “lack of professionalism.” To the contrary, I appreciate her willingness, and her courage, to not let this be swept under the rug, by sharing her opinion.

    And thank you, Ms. V B for validating my suspicions about the board. I have questioned, from the very beginning, the premature expansion, wondering what the possible benefit for the school could be. The only thing I could come up with was that many of the board members (at least 3) have older children at Audubon — and that they would like to enroll them at Lycee. It seems that these parents have been the biggest proponents of the expansion. I, too, am deeply saddened and downright outraged that they would compromise the integrity of the school for their own ulterior motives.

    I don’t know why Ms. Otis resigned, but the board should be aware that many parents took that “leap of faith” to Lycee because of Ms. Otis’ extensive experience. We are much more interested in her leadership than the biased “leadership” of the board, who seem to have their own interests before the entire school’s interest. I don’t know if Ms. Otis was “ousted” by them or not, but I’m with you, let’s get rid of them and start over. And let’s keep Ms. Otis, who has much more wisdom about running a school than the collective wisdom of the entire board!

  8. At least this former board member is being honest and open, which is more than I can say about the current board. And it also explains the push for 2nd grade even though it doesn’t seem to be in the best interests of the school and will almost certainly hurt Audubon. I thought that board members took an oath saying that they understood that they would not personally benefit from their position. Did this board member forget? She seems to be using the school for her own personal reasons in many ways. I hope someone is keeping an eye on her.

  9. Does anyone know who investigates these charter boards? Is it the BESE board? It seems to me that there needs to be some kind of oversight.

    • Good question. Oversight is the biggest problem with charter schools in LA. There is little oversight conducted by the state department of education and local school boards. There must be a better process identified. The other missing piece is the requirement that charter schools have external audits annually. I believe that internal audits are now required. The state should have a listing of vetted companies that perform the annual audits. Taxpayers have a vested interest in the finances associated with these schools. It is their money that fuels these schools.

  10. As a parent to a child registered for 1st grade at LFNO, I find myself deeply troubled about this last meeting and Jill Otis’s resignation, not because she may have wanted to resign, but because the board didn’t request and didn’t answer questions. True–maybe there are subtleties that would be difficult to explain to parents and the public. However, if the board is going to maintain its credibility and transparency, it must explain. Otherwise, we parents begin to question their motivations, their professionalism, and whether in fact they are operating in a way we the parents and public find appropriate. For instance, if Ms. Otis was encouraged or pressured to quit because she felt the school was moving too fast and had reservations about an unpublicized longterm goal, then parents who have decided to send their children to the school need to know the specifics. Twice I’ve posted comments on the school’s facebook page requesting some dialogue or some further explanation of this action. Twice my post was deleted?! I find this incredibly worrisome.

  11. We could see this train wreck coming. As a sign of good faith, let’s see the entire board resign. Instead of growing at a natural pace, certain families, with disproportionate influence and representation, want the school designed for them. And this is the problem.
    Slow and steady wins the race. The “I want mine mentality” has plagued New Orleans for too long, and now the Lycee board has the plague. If you have a student at the school or want your child at the school, you should not sit on the board. Of course, who will suffer because of this shortsighted decision by the board–the students.
    The board is loosing the trust of the parents…another New Orleans institution. C’est la vie.

  12. As a current LFNO parent, who is not on the board, nor has any member of the family employed by the school – I am comfortable with Ms Otis’s departure. Yes, I know the reasons and no, personnel matters should not necessarily be open to the public, much less discussed on these pages or on facebook.

    If you are looking for dialogue I would encourage you to contact the board directly. I can envision no instance where you will get any substantial interaction on this forum or on facebook. I will say this development had nothing to do with expansion. There are several great choices for bilingual education in the area. If you are not comfortable with how things are developing at LFNO, then you should find a place where you are happy. Choice is a great thing.

    • So, LFNO Parent 2, why do you know the reasons for the departure and I don’t? That is exactly what I’m talking about. If you are privy to some sort of information, then we should all be. And no, running away to another school is not what I’m about. I’m committed to figuring out what’s going on with Lycee and to help make it the best school it can be. You’re a bully, but I won’t be bullied.

      • A bully? Please. I simply suggested that you reach out to the board directly rather than use what amounts to an internet bulletin board if you want information or some kind of dialogue. I also stated that there are other good choices if you are not happy with LFNO and how things are going/have concerns, etc. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I don’t believe anyone will improve or make any school better via these forums.

        With regards to what I know that you don’t..well, there are any number of things that I may know that you don’t & I’m sure that the reverse is also true. However, simply knowing something does not give me the right or reason to share it and certainly not posting personnel matters on the internet.

        Now if you think me a bully, that’s your prerogative but I’m inclined to think that a true bully wouldn’t encourage you to investigate by contacting someone directly who can actually respond to your concerns. But hey…that’s just me. Why go to the source and converse intelligently when you can fly off the handle via the internet.

        • I didn’t ask you to reveal what you know. I just noted that you seem to know the reason why Ms. Otis is leaving, and I do not. Why you know this, I don’t know. Why a parent who is not a board member and has no family employed at LFNO has insider knowledge of Ms. Otis’ personnel is a big mystery.

          And if you don’t like these forums, or think they’re productive, why are you posting?

        • LFNO parent, I guess you should be asking the same question as Fletcher. What board member are you? I found it interesting that LFNO parent 2’s assertion that the expansion had nothing to do with the departure of the principal. I do not know if it did or not. However, the new board president indicated that the board was looking for a director that is line with where we are moving. “Expansion and moving” – those are the two key words utttered by two board members.

          Although I am not a parent, I have a vested interest in this school, so I am also calling on the board for an explanation of why the school is expanding to second grade (which was not proposed in the original charter)?

          I am also asking what board member(s) would benefit by this expansion. Let’s get it on the table so that the school can move on to the important business of providing a quality education for its students. How about some transparency and truth here?

          This is why it is so important for parents to attend board meetings. I have attended charter board meetings where one and in some cases no one but the boards members were there. Please parents attend board meetings so that you can be part of the decision making and the solution to the problems that the school may be facing . These meetings are essential to the well being of the school. You are the oversight committee.

          • Ms. V B, I assume you mean LFNO parent 2, not LFNO parent? I am certainly not a board member, nor do I want to be. And I don’t work at the school.

            I do thank you for your interest, your advocacy and your willingness to confront the board about their decisions. I agree, more parents should be at board meetings. Everyone keeps saying, “Ask the board directly, make the board answer questions, etc.” How does one go about this? As far as I can tell, there is no easy access to them. Where would we find their emails and phone numbers???

    • Choice is a great thing. We can choose to send our kids to another school. Or we can choose to see that this board answers for its actions. We can choose to demand resignations.

      • You can. You certainly can. But I’d tend to think that demanding resignations while knowing little to nothing about what has transpired is somewhat short sighted & at least a little premature, but sure you can demand resignations. And if you discover good reason to demand them, I’ll even join you.

    • LFNO Parent 2,
      The argument about choice is usually used to exclude those who would like to change what it is that you have. Thus, your recourse seems to come from a position of having what you want, and as you are obviously more knowledgeable about this situation (“Yes, I know the reasons…”) that puts you in a position the rest of us are not in. Kudos to “LFNO parent”, we need to stand up to those who are privileged enough to know the reasons, and we need to be counted. I would like to envision an instance of substantial interaction with the board, not an email designed to end what should be a constructive conversation. But this board does not seem to approve of conversations–they approve dictates.
      LFNO Parent 2 doth protest too much, methinks.

      • Oh please, the only thing I protest too much is the obscene butchery of Hamlet….that and weakly formed logic arguments such as ones where ‘usually’ leads to a ‘thus.’

        As far as envisioning a substantial interaction with the board…do you see that happening here on UptownMessenger?

        If so, by all means please continue your efforts. I do not want to be accused of bullying or discouraging constructive conversation.

        Especially as I stated in my original note “If you are looking for dialogue I would encourage you to contact the board directly.”

        I could actually envision a scenario where numerous people contacted the board directly,/b> requesting a meeting, forum or the like & where the board actually responded in a positive fashion.

        What can I say Ghost? You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.

        See? I can do cheesy quotation too.

  13. And they said the grass is greener on the other side! Trouble will always follow trouble makers. What is sad is so many innocent children and parents have been lied to by these board members. Choosing a school is extremely important to parents– it is important for a school to be honest! Unfortunately, this board and administration continues to lie— stating they are accredited, stating they have fast track to accreditation, saying they take french scholarships for preschool, lying about taking at risk population, where is the free lunch program, allowing open enrollment for grades first and second(when their intent is to take no new applicants who do not speak French for those grades), kicking out another public school for lfno’s new campus– but wait they kicked out an awesome long term preschool out of their current Claiborne site!
    Unfortunately, this list goes on and on.
    All those choosing this school at this time….. Humm….
    I do not remember other successful public schools acting like this… Maybe this board needs to follow Lusher’s example!

    • Well, I did not know that LFNO was the landlord of this school. For what I know, by the way directly from the Church of St Francis of Assissi, is that this school knew their lease was not going to be renewed last June (2010)! Before posting, get the right information!

  14. I agree with Louie, I have felt that this school was bad news since day one when their actions caused the upheaval of a successful and beloved nursery school. What kind of school would do that to another school? And then they did it again with their new location! Bad news, bad karma, and not something I’d want to be a part of.

  15. I am a Lycee parent. My son’s name is Fletcher; by the way he is not the Fletcher posting on this website. My opinion, for what it is worth, is that not everything is as it seems. I believe that the board is doing what is best for the children and the future of the school. I am not privvy to the details of Ms. Otis’s resignation, but I am assuming personnel matters are confidential and those representing the school have no right to disclose them. If Ms. Otis wanted them disclosed, she would let the board know and given permission.

    Lycee is still in its first year and the school and the children need all the help they can get. Why would anyone not want a school to succeed? Please stay positive and volunteer to help or step aside and stop getting in the way.

    Madness vs Wisdom

    At the dawn of time, two forces
    Came into existence
    One was Wisdom, made of peace
    And Madness, from resistance…..

  16. I have a question for Ms. VanBurskik and Ms. Otis – if you knew the so called “runaway” board members were unhappy at another charter school, did you ask what their motivations were for starting the new charter. Did you look at the character of the people you were helping to open a new charter school? Maybe the other school was not as bad as you and others thought they were. The grass is not always greener and the chickens do come home to roost.

    • I take issue with your including Ms.Otis in your statement. No where in my comments on the LFNO board was Ms. Otis mentioned. So it is disingenuous of you to include her in your comments. If you have a bone to pick, it is with me as I made the statement. For your own edification, I know why parents from your school formed Lycee. They went to your board, and asked if the board would consider creating a French high school. They were told “no”, and if the they did not like it to form their own school. Hence, LFNO. It is that simple.

      • Actually the information they gave you is incorrect – they were NOT told no, they were told to wait because the school had major facility issues with the master plan. My apologies for including Ms. Otis and for spelling your name incorrectly. I am really sorry she is going through this with the group of people the formed the charter school. These people started the charter with one goal in mind – the destruction of another one or two French Schools in the city because they wanted their way. It is happening all over again.

        Once again, I am very sorry these people are putting Ms. Otis through this because as another poster indicated she has years of experience in education and a track record of leadership. These people used her to get what they wanted and now they are throwing her under the bus.

      • Wow, as a parent of ISL (a fellow Spin off of Audubon) children, this story sounds so familiar. Our head of school has addressed the high school problem. ISL also has a high school in it’s charter. The thing is, if you want it to be your high school and not the local scoop up all of the immersion kids high school, you need to take in about 600 K kids so that you will have a viable 125-150 kids who are accepted and choose to come for 9th grade. I was told if it happened it would be the first public immersion charter school in the country. There are a few possible reasons for that. One is that since most of the kids plan on going to college in the US, many might not want immersion through high school ISL is older than Lycee but way younger than Audubon. They have done a pretty good job of communicating with parents and constituents most of the time. Most of the founding families of the school became very disgruntled with unfulfilled promises. The latter families understood that the model was not feasible.

        I am sorry to hear that Lycee is going through this, but I believe it is par for the course. People start charters with agendas. Over the next few years, I am sure Lycee will develop its own agenda based on the parents who go there, and not on the founding families. Good luck.

  17. I would challenge any of those writing posts about the aquisition of the current and future sites of the school to contact both of the churches holding the leases. You will find that one was not welcome back and the other had no intention to renew the lease, they simply outgrew the site. Please check the facts.

  18. If you are a parent, you should try to get your information from the source and not a third party. Just good practise in general.
    Talk to the school, I am sure they would be more apt to have a conversation in person than on facebook. If this is so important take the time..

  19. I’ve read through all the comments and I see a lot of negativity towards Ms. Otis’ departure and I see that people are worried about the school. I don’t mean to speak ill of someone, so this is just my opinion, but I was never impressed with Ms. Otis. When she presented at the very first open house last year, I had major reservations about applying to the school for my child. I attended the subsequent open house and I was able to talk with Mr. Grandiere, who highly impressed me. He sold me on the school and I was able to see past Ms. Otis’ short-comings. After school started and the children got settled into their year, I had some dealings with Ms. Otis regarding the business manager at the school and I was, to say the least, extremely disappointed with her lack of action. I felt as though the issues I brought up with her were disregarded. Actually, they were disregarded because there was never any follow up from her. And I both called and emailed her for a follow-up answer and was ignored. I found that to be unprofessional and it worried me greatly because my issue was a financial one. I had tried to contact the business manager and was ignored by him, too.

    So, to make a long story short, if I was treated this way, how many other parents were? And if that’s the case, there could definitely be more to this Ms. Otis story than we think. I don’t think the board of the LFNO woke up one day and decided to take action against Ms. Otis or that Ms. Otis woke up and decided to resign. I’m guessing this was something that has been a long time coming and it sounds like it wasn’t a right fit.

    I’m quite relieved that she’s gone because I thought she lacked the leadership skills needed for a new start-up charter school and I was worried she would not be able to bring the school forward. Yes, the woman had many years of public school experience, but what charter school experience did she have? A traditional public school is run much differently than a charter school. There is no OPSB handing down orders or managing the money. That is all handled at the school level. Ms. Otis started ACS in what, 1980? 1981? This is 2012 and things have severely changed since her heyday in the school system. When speaking with her one-on-one, I instantly realized the woman was in over her head and it scared me to think she was the CEO/Principal of LFNO.

    As for people who are worried about the school and its future – I strongly believe the board knows what they need to do to move forward and the board members are surely making the decisions (albeit tough ones) that need to be made for the greater good of the school. Not everyone is going to agree and people will be upset, but am grateful that they won’t settle for the status quo. I just can’t imagine a group of adults, in cahoots together, out to actively destroy what is sure to be a top-notch charter school.

    I am going to remain positive and trust that this school will move forward and will be as successful as ever, even with 1 person gone.

  20. To those of you that are criticizing my veracity, I would note that none of you were willing to release your last names when making your comments. It is easy to take cheap shots at others hiding behind a user or first name. I can easily withstand the criticism. I had years of it while working in the legislature. NOLA mama, I was the principle writer of the charter that you are speaking of. Please do not go “holier than thou” on me as the same problems exist on your board. I know the law, and many charter school boards are engaging in the day to day running of their schools, not policy making. That situation runs contrary to the law. During your next criticism of me, please have the good grace to spell my name correctly.

    Years ago, the Chicago school system developed “so called” Charter schools with parent boards. After three or four years of major crisises with these boards, the legislation was repealed and the schools promptly returned to the school system for management.

    Michael, for your information, I had not spoken to or had seen Ms. Otis since August of 2011 until last week when I had a brief conversation with her. I have been in New Jersey selling a home. If you read my comments carefully, I was neither defending or criticizing Ms.Otis, but making an honest assessment of what I knew to be fact in regard to the LFNO board members’ abilities to evaluate any CEO/Principal. It takes skill and experience to assess school leadership, especially when you have not been trained to do so.

    I worked the legislature for 16 years. I was present during the creation of the Charter School legislation. I met with the governor and the Senate Education Committee chair, Cecil Picard (who later became State Superintendent of Education) for hours on end to ensure that the original bill could be implemented effectively. Both gentlemen accepted 35 of our 40 amendments. There are still problems with the legislation, and almost each year it is amended to ensure that the provisions in the law are working. Read the section on boards that govern such schools. I am no lightweight. I have 30 years of experience both in public education and the legislature. What are your credentials Michael?

    Yes, Jill Otis and I have known each other for years. We created Audubon Montessori, the first public Montessori school in LA, led by two teachers. We were the origninal pioneers of charter schools in the early 80’s. Thanks to us parents have a free Montessori education for their children. Thanks to Jill a French school was created under that umbrella. Yes, you do have the right to your own opinion as do I, but what have you done lately or at all – to improve public education?

    The discussion of the configuration of the school was a hot topic while I was writing that section of the charter, and then afterward. I repeatedly disagreed with adding grades dependent upon the needs of the parents that sat on the board. Yes, I am a very opinionated woman. I draw my opinions based upon what is best for a school and the children, not individuals. Unfortunately charter schools are designed to compete with each other. That is the goal of such schools. However, I am of the opinion that all charter schools should be working cooperatively with each other to ensure that the best interests of our children are being met.

    • I’m not taking a position for or against Ms. Otis, her performance, the board’s actions, school expansion or campus acquisition.

      However there is an area where I strongly disagree with you. “making an honest assessment of what I knew to be fact in regard to the LFNO board members’ abilities to evaluate any CEO/Principal. It takes skill and experience to assess school leadership, especially when you have not been trained to do so.”

      It takes no special training, years of experience or time in the legislature to assess leadership. When it’s working well, it is easy to see. When it’s not, it is easy to see. What is not always clear, the conditions and contributing causes relating to either end of the spectrum. That is simply a fact.

      Could/should/would it not be great to have special training for assessing these areas? Yes, it would but I certainly do not believe it to be a requirement.

      Again I take no public position on the boards supposed action regarding Ms. Otis or on Ms. Otis’ performance at LFNO except to say that my interactions with her have been good.

      On a personal level I think highly of her and have been friends with her family for several years. She was in fact one of the reasons why we looked at and eventually chose LFNO at the school for our daughter. Whatever has transpired I wish her the absolute best. I wish her all the success in the world and I will continue to think highly of her as I see no reason to do otherwise.

      Specific to the board/school – I have yet to see a situation where a board removed a school leader, IF that is in fact what has occurred, with universal approval of the parents, faculty, students, or community at large and I do not expect to see that here. In most cases I believe there to have been some measure of resistance and perhaps even anger over a decision like this. Some of that feeling is probably healthy. Cathartic for some, Refreshing for others. Perhaps a reminder to the board, that they do not operate nor do they make decisions in a vacuum. However, it is my hope that at the end of this the LFNO community is stronger and better because of it.

      Personally I do have some questions for which I will seek answers, but based on my personal experience with the board members I still feel good about the direction of the school. And I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and work to ensure that my energy is used to help build the school rather than tear it down – literally or figuratively.

      For those who have a genuine interest in the school I hope you do the same. For those who for whatever reasons are less inclined to wish success for my child and the other children at LFNO, I only hope that you can find something constructive to lend your heart and your efforts.

      • Mr. Madison:

        Thank you for sharing your opinion re: the evaluation of school leadership. In your comments you noted that one does not need legislative experience to evaluate leadership. I agree, but assume that comment was meant in the form of sarcasm. I have had university training in the area of evaluation, and hold an administrative credential. Even with that training, I am un- sure that I am qualified to evaluate school leadership today as that coursework occured years ago. It boggles my mind that people believe evaluation of a school leader is such a simple task. I am glad that simplicity works for you. It is my hope that your child will receive the best education possible and that you will remain contented with the board and the direction of the school. Thank you for having the courage of your convictions in sharing your identity. I respect you and your opinions for it, even though I disagree with your assertions.

  21. Nolaamy stated that a board member became unhinged at a PTO meeting, and that shortly after her child started at LFNO, that same board member began sending her emails to promote the board member’s restaurant. Isn’t that UNETHICAL? How did the board member get her e-mail address? Did she sign up to receive e-mails from said restaurant?

    I thought about sending my child to LFNO – I have friends with children at Audubon and E’cole, but there are always so many negative comments and confusion with these French schools that I opted for something else. I wish the school well for the sake of the kids, but you it sounds like you need more than well wishes with that board.

  22. Personally, I am completely shocked by the lack of transparancy of the Board and the way this whole situation with Ms. Otis has progressed. I’ve been impressed by Ms. Otis and Jean Jacques from the beginning, not to mention the combined experience they bring to the table for LFNO.

    Tastless, unprofessional, and seemingly political. I thoroughly agree that parents shouldn’t be on the board as the have a vested interest that may not meet the best interest of the school.

    “LFNO Mom” how could you be so judgemental on a person based on one initial presentation. “Ms. Otis’ shortcomings”???? Give me a break…

    Ms. Otis was one of the reasons we enrolled. We found her passionate and her enthusiasm contagious. And, yes, that was at the first presentation.

    I believe parents and all those concerned should attend the next board meeting and demand the board answer questions and discuss motive for getting rid of such a valuable and instrumental part of LFNO.

    Ms. Otis and Jean Jacques are what make this school great. If you are going to talk or complain on a site, be productive and actually go to a board meeting and get some answers.

    For such a great start to a super school, the board has damaged the vision and reputation of LFNO by their actions.

    Tasteless and inapproriate behavoir by so called professionals.

    • I have no horse in this race, though we did research LFNO as our kids are currently in French Immersion school. My limited experience agrees with LFNO Mom’s description of how the front office ran under Ms. Otis.

      As we seem to be doing some straight talking here, I do have a question. I’ve been led to believe that Audubon has a strict policy of accepting transfer students ONLY from accredited schools. As LFNO is not accredited, and will not be anytime soon, does this mean that LFNO students will be without options, or will ILS admit the children that decide LFNO is not for them?

      • My experience was completely the opposite of yours. We needed some help for our LFNO child and Ms Otis, Jean Jacques, and the business manager couldn’t have beem more communicative and accomodating. We exchanged emails, telephone calls, and had meetings. At no point did we feel we were being treated poorly. Now, it sometimes took a little time getting back to us, not always the same day, however, when you are running a school, there needs to be some leniency and understanding on priorities and pressing matters. We never felt disregarded, in fact, we were so grateful for the support we received for our child. So, no, not all parents have been treated like NOLA mom, quite the opposite for these parents.

  23. Thanks to all of you for your comments so far, and for keeping what is obviously a passionate discussion so civil. This is just a reminder to please post comments under only one pseudonym. I certainly respect the need for some people to use a pseudonym to speak freely, but only one name is necessary to do that. And, as always, a special thanks to those of you who are commenting under your real names.

    • LeAnne, the board’s regular monthly meeting is at 6:30 p.m. on the second Monday of the month. This month’s meeting was moved to the first Monday, because next week is spring break. The board usually posts its agendas at this website a day or so in advance:
      I suspect you could ask for emailed notification prior to board meetings as well.

      Finally, we put all meetings of the LFNO board on our events calendar, which you can see on the right side of this page (underneath the Twitter feed) and at our calendar page here: (The format isn’t great, but we’re in the process of upgrading it, and it should be much more usable within a week or so.) We’ll also make sure we post an article in advance of the next meeting.

      • Robert, do you know where the meetings are??? Thanks so much for putting this info out there. It shouldn’t be so difficult to get this information. Seems the school should make this easily accessible for parents. I appreciate your help.

  24. Clark,

    No prior French experience is required for admission in Kindergarten at Audubon. For applications in the French program, for 1st grade and up, students coming from a school that is not accredited will have to take a test and pass it in order to be admitted at Audubon.

    • Abeille – you are quite correct. But Audubon requires you to have residency in Orleans parish. I feel lucky in the fact that I can live in JP and still have my child benefit from this immersion program.

  25. There have been many questions about the ethics of LFNO practices in earlier discussions on Uptown Messenger articles. As a prospective parent I am dismayed by this recent news and discussion. It would be unethical for a board member to use the school’s email list to self-promote a personal business. That person should be removed from the board – immediately – as the first step in re-establishing trust.

  26. I haven’t had a chance to read the posts for a couple of days, and as I did read them over, I found one that some could have thought was one of my follow up responses. I’ve only posted once and then used my real name. Since that post I have had the opportunity to speak to the Chairman of the Board and I can say that I found him to be open to all of my questions regarding Jill Otis’s resignation, future plans for the school, and whether board members were working in their own best interests which he answered directly and thoroughly. He did, however, say that some of my questions would need to be directed directly to Ms. Otis herself. What I came away feeling is that communication between the board and parents needs to be more of a priority. Maybe Facebook is not an appropriate venue but there does need to be one and it seems that now is a good time for parents to request one. I’m a newbie, but I will be involved in that dialogue. Clearly, with more dialogue there might be less rumor mongering and outright nastiness. Geez, We all want the best for our kids, right?

    • I think the appropriate forum is board meetings. Higher up in the postings there is some info on when the next one should be. Let’s make sure were there.

  27. I suppose it’s all about our experiences….After months of research, open houses, interviews, child testing, mandated play dates, and all the other intense requirements of beginning the New Orleans school process for the first time, I still feel dizzy and unsure. As we do not have friends or connections here who can relay that ever-so-desired insight to the schools we applied for, I have begun to include forums such as these to help me “hear” a little thought or opinion from real parents. After being rejected from our first 2 private school picks due to their apparent PreK4 Redshirting practices, we were happy to have been accepted into both our back-ups, Lycee & Audubon – which frankly, I didn’t expect due to their popularity.
    So here I am, at Registration time for both…sitting on this Fence of Indecision. Both programs seem strong & reliable, although I have been leaning more toward Lycee mostly for one big reason: They have been accommodating & courteous in regards to basic human interaction. Every time I have called or visited the Audubon Gentilly campus, I’m made to feel as if I am troubling them, and of the 4 times I’ve been in the front office, no one even looks up at me standing there; no email replies either. Although, the French School Director seems completely accessible and is quite cordial- I loved what I saw in the tour.
    I’ve entered the whole Charter arena cautiously, as I was a contracted Social Worker after Katrina for a number of these schools (not these 2). I ran fun therapeutic groups for elementary students to help them process and cope with related issues. It was incredibly challenging at each school exclusively due to the front office administrators – disgruntled personalities, french fry grease on everything from the fax to the counters, unplugging phone lines, shredding formal complaints from parents, & inappropriate disciplining of the students. It was enough to scare me into vowing never to send my not-even-born-yet child to a Charter here in town.
    Flash forward to my Fence of Indecision with these two seemingly great schools, I sit here reading into so much anger, frustration, and dismay. And I must make a decision next week on whether to attend Lycee or Audubon. I feel a lot of weight bears on “the front office” workers just as much as the teachers and programs do. My questions to all of you well-informed parents, silent board members, and educators here, Is my experience with Audubon’s front office staff atypical? Should my concerns lie more in the realm of Board control/ethics? Is it silly of me to base a lot of decision on how I’m treated by the front office staff??
    Here I was focusing more on, “Is there a playground and outdoor shelters?” ” Do the kids get recess/naptime?” Kiddo is only 4.
    Please share your genuine thoughts! I would be so grateful.

    • Christy – I definitely understand your situation. I went through the same process last year when deciding if I was going to leave an established system that I had been very active in and felt part of the school family to go to a new school that was new to everyone. I knew board members from both settings and felt that my decision also had to be determined by the people that we need to deal with day to day. I couldn’t wrap my head around having to make such a weighted choice for my then 5 year old that could change our course of education forever.
      That being said, it finally came down to stability and trust. The passion from Lycee’s board members and the mission statement for the school seemed to be very impressive. Being part of the new school has had its moments of frustration but the quickness that the school takes to resolving issues and getting things accomplished is much different from my other school experiences. In the end we are just trying to give our kids the best education that we can. I’m looking forward to the next school, the new challenges it is going to bring and the excitement my child has for learning at Lycee.

    • Christy–look at private school Ecole Bilingue, Audubon, and Hynes.
      I work with many schools and honestly can recommend these. Lycee has a lot to prove!
      My grandchildren are in a couple of the listed and have been very impressed! ISL has had some problems with it’s older grades but at 4 would be great there too.

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