In an effort to move past the uncertainty and controversy of the last month, the governing board of Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans gave a permanent appointment to its popular school leader and accepted the resignation of an embattled board member on Friday night.
Board president Jean Montes also proposed engaging an outside firm to train the board in better school governance, and described a new committee structure that he said will bring a new level of community involvement to the board’s decisions.
The Friday-night meeting comes after a tumultuous month for the school. After the resignation of principal Jill Otis in April, the board began advertising for a permanent general director — raising the concerns of many parents that school leader Jean-Jacques Grandiere might be next to leave. Then, in the board’s regular May meeting, board member Kenneth Charity sought to have Allen Kelly voted off the board for suggesting in an email that a third board member, Paige Saleun, receive a “bitchslap” over her handling of the addition of a second grade to the school next year. After the vote failed to get the needed 2/3 majority to remove Kelly, Charity resigned the next day.
Before an audience of about 15 people at 8 p.m. Friday, Montes opened the meeting by saying that the search for a general director was over, and that Grandiere had been chosen. The board evaluated nine applications in the search, Montes said, but “we ended up with Mr. Grandiere being on top.” Grandiere thanked the board for their confidence, pledged to work with them, the staff and the parents on next year’s challenge of moving into a new school building, and then was unanimously voted into the position to applause from both the parents and the board.
Next on the night’s agenda was the discussion of Kelly’s future on the board, but about an hour before the meeting, Kelly sent the board a tersely-worded email resigning: “I hereby resign from the LFNO, Inc. Board of Directors contingent upon and pending the nomination and election of my replacement,” Kelly wrote, saying he would abstain from any board activities until he is replaced.
Kelly did not appear at the meeting, and Montes announced his decision to the audience. Montes said that Kelly was aware of the discord his comments created, and said that his resignation will allow the board to move forward.
“He’s going to find ways to continue being a positive contributor to the school,” Montes said, praising Kelly’s work in helping establish the school. “It’s a personal decision that was very difficult for him to make. It’s something he had to come to a decision on himself.”
One audience member asked Montes whether any other board members should resign, and Montes said he would see to it that no more behavior beneath the school’s standards was tolerated. He then moved into the next topic, contracting for board training with The High Bar, a national charter-school management consulting group. The High Bar would give the board guidance on issues such as setting goals, running meetings and choosing new members, Montes said, and he proposed that each board member personally contribute $1,000 toward the program’s $7,000 annual fee.
“The idea is that as long as we exist, we need to find ways to do things better, and find out what best practices are,” Montes said. Explaining the need for the board members to pay themselves, he added, “”It is something I think we need to invest in.”
Jeff Teague, a Lycee parent and member of the Akili Academy charter school board, said from the audience that he had been through training sessions with The High Bar and found them to be worthwhile.
“I have to commend you for putting up your own money,” Teague said. “That training is really good, and I can tell you from firsthand experience.”
Other board members asked Montes for time to look into the proposal themselves, and Montes agreed to postpone a decision on it. He then shifted to the final topic of the night, the creation of four new committees — finance, governance, development and academic excellence — that will include both board members and members of the Lycee community. The members will be chosen in the coming weeks by each committee chair, Montes said, but they will be drawn from anyone interested in serving.
Each committee will have two or three board members, and two or three community members, Montes said, suggesting that anyone interested in serving email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the urging of an audience member, Montes said an invitation to apply for the committees will also be placed on the school website.
To read our live coverage of Friday’s meeting, see the box below.