Get to know our leaders

Notre équipe de direction

Michael Maniska

BA (UNSW), MA (USyd), Dip Ed (USyd)

Head of School

Michael Maniska has been a passionate bilingual educator for over 25 years. A firm believer in the power of bilingualism and intercultural capacity as key competencies for students in the 21st century, Michael has been Head of School at the International School of Los Angeles since October 2014. Prior to this, he headed two bilingual schools in Australia. Michael is an alumnus of the University of Sydney, where he originally trained as a teacher of French and English as a second language. He holds a master’s degree in French and is a keen linguist (bilingual in English and French and conversant in Greek and Italian), and an enthusiastic citizen of the world. When he is not busy overseeing our complex school, Michael is an avid commercial aviation buff who enjoys plane spotting.

In 2018, Michael was selected to participate in the highly regarded Klingenstein Heads of School Fellowship at Columbia University. For his services to French language and culture, Michael was awarded the distinction of Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French Ministry of Education.

Anneli Harvey

BA, MA (Oxon), MA (USur), PGCE (Inst Ed)

Director of Teaching, Learning & Professional Growth

Having completed a master’s degree in French and German at Somerville College, Oxford, followed by a PGCE at the Institute of Education, Anneli Harvey taught for 13 years in inner London and began writing textbooks in French and German. She ran a large department in an inner London school which earned a grant to become a ‘Language College.’ Anneli was a regular presenter for the Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research and was involved with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and various local authorities in the UK, consulting on best practice in language teaching.

In 2000, Anneli, who has over 30 publications to her name, left the classroom to focus specifically on writing and consultancy. She and her family moved to Los Angeles in 2008. After serving on the School’s Board of Trustees for several years, she took up her current role as Burbank Campus Director in 2013.

Anneli holds a second master’s in 20th century French cultural studies from the University of Surrey and is currently studying for a Certificate in Advanced Educational Leadership from Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Mathieu Mondange

Licence géographie, science de l’éducation (Paris I), CAPE (Versailles)

Burbank Campus Director & Representative for French Affairs

For over 10 years, Mathieu Mondange has played a central role on the School’s faculty/staff team. His experience as an educator both in France and in the US, combined with his classroom and management roles across the School’s four LA-area campuses, has made him invaluable when it comes to understanding the needs of our diverse community.

A graduate of the University of Paris I: Panthéon-Sorbonne, Mathieu spent three years teaching and managing international student programs in France before arriving in Los Angeles in 2008. He began his journey with the School as an elementary teacher at our West Valley campus from 2008-2013. Shortly thereafter, he joined the School’s first team of Academic Coordinators. In this position, he served the Pasadena campus from 2014-2015 before moving to the Los Feliz campus from 2015-2016. During this time, Mathieu also took on the role of WASC Coordinator. In time for the 2016-2017 school year, he arrived at the Burbank campus as Assistant Campus Director. Continuing his growth with the School, Mathieu stepped into his current role of Middle School Principal & Representative for French Affairs in summer 2018.

Nordine Bouriche

Lic Sc Eco Soc, CAPE, CAPA-SH (Lille)

Los Feliz Campus Director

Nordine Bouriche hails from Lille, France, where he studied economics and econometrics at University of Sciences of Lille 1. From a very young age, Nordine wanted to be an elementary teacher. After completing his bachelor’s degree, he attended ESPE of Lille and earned his elementary teaching credential from the French Ministry of Education in 1998. To complement his teaching credential, Nordine completed further training and now holds a qualification in special needs education.

In 2006, Nordine arrived in Los Angeles and began working at the School’s Pasadena campus. There he taught a multilevel class of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students before becoming the Los Feliz Assistant Campus Director in 2010.

Nordine has served as the Los Feliz Campus Director since 2013. More recently, he oversaw the opening of the Early Learning Center, an annex to the Los Feliz campus that welcomes 90 preschool and Pre-K students.

In his spare time, Nordine likes to play badminton and stay abreast of new developments in education. He is also passionate about mathematics and geopolitics.

Benoît Forner

M. Ed Educational Leadership (UNO), CAPE (Besançon), CAPA-SH (Besançon)

Pasadena Campus Director

A native of Gevrey-Chambertin, France, Benoît became an educator in Special Education in 2006 after a few years working in Logistics and Transport. In 2010, he moved to New Orleans, Louisiana where he taught 2nd grade and 4th grade in a Public French Immersion Program. At the same time, he completed his Master’s of Education in Educational Leadership at the University of New Orleans. He joined the Ecole Bilingue of New Orleans in 2019 where he served as the Elementary and Middle School Academic Director.

Benoît joined LILA in August 2022 as the Pasadena Campus Director. He is happy to continue organizing the annual three-day camping trip to Joshua Tree that the Pasadena campus community has been enjoying for more than a decade.

Sonia Gmar

Maîtrise sciences de l’éducation (Montpellier III), CRPE (Versailles), CAPSAIS (Lille)

West Valley Campus Director

Hailing from Lille, France, Sonia Gmar knew from a very young age that she wanted to be an elementary teacher. First pursuing her professional handball career, Sonia moved to Montpellier, where she ultimately earned her master’s in education. Sonia went on to obtain her CRPE in Versailles before returning to her hometown to complete a certification in special needs education. She then spent several years working at schools for physically and developmentally challenged students, through which she cemented her wellbeing-centered approach.

Upon moving to Los Angeles in 2007, Sonia began working at the School’s Pasadena campus, where she taught 1st, 4th, and 5th grade classes. She then held the role of Pedagogical Coordinator for Los Feliz and Pasadena for three years before becoming conseillère pédagogique. During her time working across the School’s four elementary campuses, Sonia implemented the cahier de réussite and bilingual math curriculum. One of her most cherished undertakings has been the organization of the 5th grade trip to France, which she skillfully managed for four years.

Sonia took on her current role of West Valley Campus Director in July 2020.

John Fleck

BS (UOre)

CFO

John Fleck holds degrees in both marketing and finance from the University of Oregon. He moved to Los Angeles in 1986 where he started his finance career in the entertainment industry.

John has been part of our school community since 1997, when the older of his two daughters started preschool at the Los Feliz campus. In 1998, he attended his first PA meeting and was quickly elected President. After establishing a strong parent volunteer community, John was invited to join the School’s Board of Trustees in 2001; he served as Treasurer until 2010. John has held the role of CFO since 2003.

In 2015, John earned the CFO of the Year award from the San Fernando Valley Business Journal for his work associated with the School’s first-ever campus purchase. This two-year project required a combination of financial, political, and planning skills, and through sound budgeting practices, John was able to lead the transformation of the purchased property from a five-acre General Motors facility into a usable middle and high school campus. The project was not only delivered on time but within budget for the start of the 2013-2014 school year at Burbank.

Leslie Galerne ’97

BA (USC), CFRE

Director of Advancement

Leslie Galerne ‘97 is a LILA alumna who has more than 20 years of experience in the communications and public relations field. Having worked at top PR agencies as well as in-house, she has leveraged these skills to take on the Annual Fund and alumni relations for LILA since 2017. She spent that time building community while promoting understanding of, and growing support for, the Annual Fund. In 2021, she took on the role of Director of Advancement, overseeing development, marketing and communications, events, and volunteer management.

Leslie holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Southern California as well as a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification.


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Juliette Lange

BA (ULond), MA (UBirm), MEd (OpenU)

Director of Admissions and Diversity

Juliette Lange joined the School in 2009, bringing with her 25 years of teaching experience and a passion for bilingual education and linguistics. After serving as Admissions Coordinator for the Los Feliz campus for several years, Juliette took on the role of school-wide Admissions Director in 2013.

Growing up, she attended the Lycée International de Saint-Germain-en-Laye and the Lycée Français de Stockholm. Juliette is also a parent at the School; three of her four children have studied here. Having been both a student and a parent at a multitude of French and international schools, Juliette understands firsthand the unique experience that the School offers to its students.

Juliette holds a master’s in education from The Open University as well as a master’s in applied linguistics from Birmingham University.


Stéphane Tixier

MA (ESIEE-IT Paris), CESA (HEC Paris)

IT Director

A native of Paris, France, Stéphane Tixier has more than 25 years of experience in IT Infrastructure and Services working for international companies. In 2015, during his tenure as the director of IT Operations at Hewlett-Packard, he and his family moved to Los Angeles where he quickly became involved in the school community as the Los Feliz PA Treasurer in 2016.

In 2017, Stéphane took over LILA’s IT Director role. Since joining, he and his team have spearheaded important initiatives in the life of the School. Namely, in March 2020, they were instrumental in developing a fully remote learning model allowing the School to pivot to e-learning in the span of one weekend. To ensure the success of LILA’s e-learning program, the team offered support to teachers, students and parents for the duration of the year-long school closures. Under his leadership, technology at LILA has been transformed with initiatives such as the development and implementation of the 1:1 Chromebooks program for 2nd to 9th grades, the use of Google Classroom throughout the School, as well as the digital interactive whiteboard.

Stéphane holds a Master’s Degree in Computer Science (Diplôme d’Ingénieur) from ESIEE-IT Paris as well as an Executive Certificate (CESA) in Management from HEC Paris.


Mort Haidarbaghi

COO, BSc(Hons), MSc (Eng), MSc (Law), CEng

Mort Haidarbaghi first joined the LILA community as a parent in 2007 following his move to Los Angeles from London, UK, with a commitment to continue with the French bilingual education of his four children, three of whom graduated from LILA. 

Mort started his career as a chartered structural engineer in the UK. He then moved into business operations and management, contract law, quality management systems,  and project and risk management.

Mort has a Master’s in structural engineering from the City University, London and a Master’s in Law from King’s College, London. 

Mort brought with him a diverse and extensive experience gained over 25 years in company operations management as well as through leading the delivery of major multi-disciplinary construction projects worldwide such as the BBC Media Village Development including the BBC’s new broadcasting center. Mort also designed and led the delivery of the London ExCel Exhibition Centre Development which turned into the British Government’s NHS Nightingale Hospital during COVID.

In 2012 acting as an independent management consultant for LILA he successfully delivered the construction of the Burbank Campus and provided management consultancy services to the school. He then formally joined LILA in 2014 as the Chief Operating Officer of the school.