La. education superintendent gets 'favorable' job evaluation

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana's top public school board has given state Superintendent of Education John White a positive job evaluation, but no more job security than the month-to-month deal he has had since the new board's term began in January.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, known as BESE, reviewed White's performance in a 40-minute, closed-door session Wednesday. Board President Jim Garvey emerged to say White's evaluation was "favorable."

Though no document was released, White said he was given a nearly 3.2 rating on a 4-point scale, what he described as "effective proficient," a similar ranking to what he has received each of his four years on the job.

"My whole evaluation is contingent on the results that students and teachers are achieving, and by and large, they're showing progress," White said.

But he added the evaluation shows "we have some real challenges."

"Those challenges mainly are, we're not translating enough of our high school graduates into college graduates and secondly that our students with disabilities and English-language learners are not making progress at the same pace as the rest of the state," White said.

The superintendent oversees policy decisions that affect more than 700,000 public school students. White has been paid a $275,000 annual salary since his hiring in January 2012. He has been eligible for raises, but hasn't taken them.

BESE chooses the superintendent, a decision that requires a two-thirds vote of the 11-member board. Under state law, the superintendent's contract can't last longer than the members' four-year terms, but the superintendent can continue in the job until the new board makes its appointment.

White doesn't appear to have enough support on the board that took office in January for a new contract to be put in place, and critics don't appear to have enough support to oust him either. He remains under the contract enacted during the previous board's term, on a month-to-month basis.

BESE includes eight elected members and three gubernatorial appointees. Garvey, the board president, said with eight new members on the board, there's been no rush to debate the future of Louisiana's education superintendent.

Garvey said he expects "at some point" that the board will want to vote on who should be superintendent, but he had no timeline for a decision.

"I would prefer to get it taken care of, but it's not causing any problems," he said.

A former New York City schools leader, White initially got the superintendent's job with the strong support of then-Gov. Bobby Jindal. But the men's relationship fractured in later years. White has been at odds with the positions of Gov. John Bel Edwards, in office since January and aligned with traditional public school organizations that have bristled at White's push to expand charter schools and to create a statewide voucher program.

One state lawmaker this week urged the board to fire White. Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, said White hasn't shown enough progress in student performance.

"Anyone who pays attention to the news knows he has failed," Pearson said in a statement.

Garvey acknowledged Louisiana remains ranked in the bottom tier of states on education performance, but he said the state has made significant strides and is going in the right direction, increasing student achievement at a pace that is faster than other states.

"Over the past 50, 60, 100 years, we have dug a deep hole. And we are working fast to get out of it," Garvey said. "But it takes a while to get out of a deep hole."


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