When John Bel Edwards won the gubernatorial runoff election in November 2015, teachers and parents across the state of Louisiana sat on the edge of their seats in anticipation of the exit of State Superintendent of Education, John White. Edwards, after all, was very vocal about his desire to see White replaced by a “Louisiana educator.” Here we are 15 months after Edwards took office and White’s contract expired. Alas, White is still here.
Shortly after the November election, Mercedes Schneider wrote in her blog, John White’s Contract, about the anticipation of what was to come. She talks about the different ways that White could be ousted which range from a BESE vote to various gubernatorial actions. She includes a quote from former BESE member, Jane Smith, “No matter the composition of BESE, never underestimate the power of a newly-elected governor.”
Most people continue to blame Gov. Edwards for White remaining as superintendent. The truth is, above the table, the governor has little ability to select and/or dispose of an appointed superintendent. Though it has been described as a member of the governor’s cabinet, the superintendent isn’t appointed by the governor. He is appointed by BESE with a super majority (2/3) vote. The current BESE make up consists of three gubernatorial appointees, one John White opposer elected by the people, and 7 elected members who enjoyed the financial support of special interest groups who, along with their supporters, worship John White in a fashion that one would associate with a religious sect.
Below the table, there are a number of options available to the governor that range from slash the budget and cancelling contracts to issuing executive orders and making White’s life miserable. Some of the actions available could be viewed as a unilateral move and politically motivated. While you can’t ever separate a governor’s actions from political motivations, it isn’t likely that any of these options would be used. It is much more effective if the above the table options were successful, but there is a hindrance to that happening.
It has been known since January 2016 that White’s contract expired. If you do a google search for “John White contract month to month,” you will find a number of news articles that discuss this fact. During the first half of 2016, there were only two full board BESE meetings. In January, the newly elected board said good-bye to the previously appointed BESE members and established the new officers of the new board. Jim Garvey was installed as BESE president, and it was his first meeting as president.
In February, there was no meeting because of Mardi Gras. The March meeting, in theory, should have been the meeting to discuss the superintendent’s contract; however, it was not on the agenda. It was at this meeting, the second general meeting of the new members, that a finance report prepared by White for the legislature was challenged by appointee Doris Voitier. Her challenge was backed by elected member, Gary Jones. The conflicts in that meeting resulted in the April and May meetings being cancelled by White under the guise of budget restraints and other reasons related to the legislature’s special and regular sessions.
In June, the meetings resumed. The superintendent’s performance evaluation usually takes place in this month, but it was pushed back because President Garvey didn’t feel the new members had enough time to get to know White. The review was completed the next month.
I was watching the live feed of a BESE meeting when Garvey specifically mentions that White’s contract was expired, but per the terms of his contract, he would stay on as a “month to month” employee. I thought that he said that in the January meeting, his first meeting as president. I reviewed the archive video, and he didn’t say it. In fact, after reviewing all of the archived videos through August, Garvey’s comments are no where to be found. There is no mention of the superintendent’s contract in the agenda, or minutes, and no video of Garvey making this comment of which I am 100% certain that he did.
In the August video, the full board goes into executive session to evaluate the superintendent. When they return, Garvey discusses White’s rating, then continues with the agenda items. Again, no mention of the contract, or the “month to month” status, but no less than 6 news articles can be found from August 2016 quoting Garvey to that effect. I have confirmed with people who were in attendance when Garvey said this. The absence of his comments in video archives and meeting minutes is concerning.
In the process of reviewing these events, I analyzed the reasons that White’s contract hasn’t been addressed. I have already explained in Off Contract and At Will that it is clear that BESE could not produce the 8 votes needed to reconfirm White. The law is clear that after expiration of his contract, the superintendent can remain on a month to month basis until a new superintendent is appointed. Just because the contract hasn’t been addressed in a public meeting, doesn’t mean he can remain forever. The board must be provided the opportunity to appoint a superintendent. His continued employment as superintendent without the support of 2/3 of the vote, is unacceptable.
Related to this, one could assume that Garvey is buying time to gain support for White. How could this happen? Well, one point of contention since White’s appointment is that he isn’t qualified to be superintendent. It is clear that an attempt has been made to resolve that issue.
In the image below, you will see that Superintendent White was granted the teaching credentials that one would need to be superintendent of Louisiana.
Note that the EDL-1 and EDL-2 were issued on the same day…in February, the month that he should have already been confirmed. The EDL-3 was issued in June; the month that he should have been evaluated. Technically, this could all be done legitimately if all of the requirements are met. As always, it is good practice to double check the actions of BESE and LDOE because, these days, they are lacking in credibility. Here is what was found.
In the above excerpt of White’s certification and degrees earned, notice that in the Act 54 section, the requirements to obtain “higher certification” the applicant must meet the standards of effectiveness for three years; one would assume, employed as an ED Leader Level 1. The irony here is that the applicant is afforded the opportunity to use his years as an “unqualified superintendent” to earn his qualification.
Above that section, take a look at the type of certification he initially pursues. Ed Leader Level 1 (Alt 1) requires the applicant to complete a competency based program through a university. See the image below for that documentation.
In the image above, you will see the requirements needed to apply for an Ed Leader-Level 1 (Alternative Pathway 1)
- The 1st section is questionably confirmed. While White was certified and employed during the time period indicated, his certification has expired.
- In the 2nd section, it has been confirmed that White has earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration.
- The 3rd section is where it gets tricky. The applicant must complete an individualized program at a regionally accredited institution of higher learning. He indicates the “Broad Foundation.” More on that below.
- The 4th section, he indicates a passing score of 183 on the required Praxis exam.
It is widely known that the Broad Foundation conducts a Superintendent’s Academy which initially was a six week program, and now, offers their program through a variety of programs, including two year fellowships; however, the Broad Foundation, and Broad Center, are not institutions of higher learning. The Broad Center was, in fact, granted accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in March of 2015 for its two-year program that results in an earned Master’s Degree; however, that is that is not the program that White participated in, nor was it accredited when he completed his program.
It is clear that certain members of BESE continue to have no problem conducting themselves in a questionable manner. Nor, do they offer any level of transparency. If you would like to see White’s documents in their entirety, Click Here. Notice that the recommendation letters began to arrive in December.