The general director of Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans resigned his position on Friday, and the board chair and another board member will take on some of his responsibilities until a new leader can be found this summer through a national search. After about a year and a half with the new French-immersion charter school, Jean-Jacques Grandiere submitted his resignation Friday for unspecfied “personal reasons,” according to a letter sent from board chair Jean Montes to parents late Saturday morning. Montes and another board member, Dan Henderson, will fill in for Grandere during the transitional period, the letter states. Grandiere’s resignation comes at end of what has been a turbulent year for the school’s leadership. In April, the board announced that principal Jill Otis would be resigning at the end of the school’s first academic year.
Six New Orleans charter schools — including two immersion schools in the Uptown area, the International School of Louisiana and Lycee Francais de la Nouvelle Orleans — will have their admissions controlled by a central, citywide process for students enrolling in the fall of 2014, state officials decided Monday night. The common enrollment process known as the “OneApp” was launched last year as a way to unify the admissions process across all schools controlled by the Recovery School District, both to cut down on families’ confusion and hassle of applying to many different schools, and to reduce questions about the fairness of individual schools’ admissions policies. Parents applying to RSD schools list their top choices for their children, and a computer algorithm sorts all the applications and matches students to schools. This year, the second for the OneApp program, the Orleans Parish School Board will join the process for the handful of traditional schools it runs directly, though the majority of OPSB charter schools have said they are not ready to join it. Pressure is growing for all schools in the city to participate eventually, however, and on Wednesday night the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to include the six schools it oversees — including ISL and LFNO — into that process.
As a cafeteria full of concerned parents listened closely, the Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans governing board approved $200,000 in cuts to the current year’s budget Monday night to make up for more spending and less revenue than expected just a few months ago, and hopefully restore the school to a path toward solvency by the end of the school year. Left unresolved, however, was the school’s leadership issue. General Director Jean-Jacques Grandiere did not attend the meeting or the board’s 45-minute closed-door session about his status, and board chair Jean Montes suggested that “other options” to lead the school are being explored during Grandiere’s absence. [Update: For a copy of the revised budget, click here.]
Plugging the holes
The board meeting began with an extensive, 45-minute discussion of the school’s financial issues led by new finance director Julianne Ruocco. The school ended its last fiscal year this summer with an operating deficit of $85,000, which came from a number of sources, Ruocco said.
The Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans board of directors will consider a personnel matter regarding the school’s general director during Monday’s board meeting, according to the agenda. The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday at 5951 Patton Street. Also on Monday’s agenda are discussions of the school’s budget finances, changes to the application process, outreach efforts and board training. To read the agenda in full, click here [PDF].
Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans has an as-yet-unexplained hole of at least $90,000 in the current year’s operating budget that required the sudden layoffs of three staff members, the school’s board president said Wednesday evening, leaving many of the young school’s teachers openly fearful for their jobs and drawing angry protests from a room full of parents. The school board has already engaged a team of auditors to help it gauge the true state of the school’s finances, board president Jean Montes said, and they hope to know the full extent of any future cuts needed within the next three weeks. For the audience of more than 150 people at the meeting of the school’s parent-teacher organization, however, the revelations only raised more questions. Growing shortfall
Back in the summer — apparently not long after approving the 2012-13 budget in early July — school leaders began raising questions about the finances that they could not get answers to, Montes said, leading to their seeking the resignation of the business manager at the time, David Bedell. As they looked further into it, Montes said, school leaders have discovered that the budget now has a shortfall of at least $90,000.
Allegations that Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans is structured to favor well-off students and that it does not appropriately serve the city’s African-American population resurfaced on Tuesday afternoon when a series of complaints about the new French-immersion charter school were aired before the state education board in Baton Rouge. Among the complaints were that the school has failed to follow through on an outreach program to a Central City daycare promised in its charter, that it is using state money to subsidize its private preschool, that students in the school’s new second grade are not being given adequate remedial instruction in French and that state education officials are intentionally ignoring those issues. No action was taken on the complaints, but the board asked its staff to investigate the claims and report its findings next month at a meeting in New Orleans. Lycee Francais, unlike most charter schools in New Orleans, is authorized directly by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, rather than through the Recovery School District or the Orleans Parish School Board. At a meeting of the BESE school improvement committee Tuesday afternoon in Baton Rouge, board member Lottie Beebe of Breaux Bridge requested a report on Lycee Francais because of concerns she said her constituents have expressed to her.
The Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans governing board will hold its monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Monday, Oct. 8) at the school’s Patton Street campus. The public notice and agenda are below:
The LFNO, Inc. Board of Directors will convene Monday, October 8th, 2012 at 6:30 PM at 5951 Patton Street, New Orleans, LA, 70115, for its monthly board meeting. Agenda for October 8th, 2012 at 6:30pm
5951 Patton Street
1. Call to order
Marci Cornell-Feist, founder and CEO of The High Bar education management company, urged the board of Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans to distinguish between the roles of the board and the school staff: “The school leader should be treated like a CEO,” she said, according to a report by Marta Jewson of The Lens on the board’s training retreat Thursday morning.
The Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans board will hold a training session on charter-school governance during a retreat scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday at the school’s new campus at 5951 Patton Street, officials said. The training will be conducted by Marci Cornell-Feist of The High Bar, a national school-management consulting group that LFNO board president Jean Montes suggested hiring in June following a series of disputes within the board.
Hurricane Isaac caused very little damage to the new Patton Street campus of Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans, and with school now back in session, parents and officials spent Monday night discussing how to work out some of the kinks at the fast-growing school. “It’s been two weeks of school,” said board chair Jean Montes about running the new campus. “We’re very new at the process, but we’re happy with it.” During the week of Hurricane Isaac, general director Jean-Jacques Grandiere visited the campus every day to make sure there was no damage, but only a single window was lost in the storm, he said. Most of the teachers who had just arrived from France evacuated to Texas for the storm, but all were back in time for school to reopen last Tuesday, Grandiere said.