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US Ed Sec Betsy DeVos Pays for Own Travel, But Not for Her Beefed-up Security

On September 21, 2017, the Associated Press reported (linked here via the Los Angeles Times) that US Secretary of Education, billionaire Betsy DeVos, is using her own personal plane for those visits that she is making on behalf of her federal ed department, including her habitual visits to schools that are not traditional public schools.

From the LA Times:

Education Department Press Secretary Liz Hill said in a statement to The Associated Press that DeVos travels “on personally-owned aircraft” at zero cost to taxpayers. …

“The secretary neither seeks, nor accepts, any reimbursement for her flights, nor for any additional official travel-related expenses, such as lodging and per diem, even though she is entitled to such reimbursement under government travel regulations,” Hill said. “Secretary DeVos accepted her position to serve the public and is fully committed to being a faithful steward of taxpayer dollars.”

Sounds generous, except that taxpayers have been paying approximately $1 million per month since February 2017 for “faithful steward” DeVos to be escorted by federal marshals. According to CNN, the $34,000-per-day taxpayer cost was allocated until the end of the fiscal year– September 30, 2017.

A cost of $34,000 per day. Wrap your mind around that one.

Even though Congress has not finalized its budget for Fiscal Year 2018, DeVos’ Department of Ed (USED) is asking Congress for approximately $21 million “for enhanced IT security, critical IT infrastructure needs, continued audit and investigative work, and additional security costs for the Secretary.” The exact amount earmarked for DeVos’ increased security costs is not disclosed in USED’s publicized FY2018 budget request. However, it is not unrealistic to believe that taxpayers will be continuing to pay that $1 million per month so that DeVos can travel the country insulting America’s traditional public schools.

Approximately $34,000 per day.

At a cost of $34,000 a day for DeVos to travel guarded by federal marshals, my annual teaching salary could purchase 1.75 days of protection for Betsy DeVos–

–plenty of time for her to fly on her tax-deductible dime to snub traditional public education as she celebrates some private or charter school in my area.

betsy devos 7  Betsy DeVos

_______________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

NJ Third Grader Scores Perfect on PARCC

New Jersey public school student, Alexica Perez, achieved a perfect score on the seven-day-long PARCC test that she took in her third grade year at Max Leutcher Elementary School (Vineland, NJ) in 2016-17, the New Jersey Daily Journal reports.

Alexica’s mother noted that she and her two children are habitual, daily readers and that Alexica enjoys learning vocabulary and “spelling large words.”

alexica perez  Alexica Perez

Concerning test-taking tips, Alexica suggested getting a good night’s sleep and eating breakfast. She also advised fellow students to double-check their answers, relax, and “have fun, don’t be too focused.”

Max Leutcher Elementary School (Vineland Public School District; Vineland, NJ), is a K-5 school that serves approx. 250 students. The student-teacher ratio is 12:1, up from 9:1 over five years. The ethnic diversity of the school is majority Hispanic (63%), followed by Black (24%), then White (13%). Seventy-six percent of students are eligible for free lunch.

District per-student spending is $21,088, slightly above the state average of $21,053.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Investigating John White’s Teaching Experience: The Emails (Part IV)

I have been writing a series about Louisiana state superintendent John White’s lack of the minimum five years of certificated teaching experience necessary for the education leader 3 (EDL3) certificate that the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) granted him anyway on June 08, 2016.

This series is based upon the results of 11 LDOE public records requests that I filed between July 01, 2017, and August 24, 2017.

This post is the fourth (and final) in that series. (Click these links to view part 1part 2, and part 3.)

In the third post, I noted the change in plan communicated on January 19, 2016, by asst. supt. Hannah Dietsch to ed cert director, Barbara Burke: La. supt. John White would only be applying for EDL1 and EDL2, not EDL3.

EDL1 and EDL2 posed no problem as far as years of certificated teaching were concerned, with EDL2 requiring three certificated years, which White has.

It’s EDL3 that posed an issue, with its requirement of five years of certificated teaching.

White was also required to take two certification tests. The one necessary for EDL1, the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA), White was scheduled to take on January 04, 2016. However, White would not be able to take the test for EDL3, the School Superintendent Assessment (SSA), until March 11, 2016. Thus, on its face, it seems that Dietsch’s directing Burke to process White’s EDL1 and EDL2 first makes sense.

Burke had no issue with granting White’s EDL1 and EDL2, which she did on February 20, 2016.

However, since White does not have five years of certificated teaching experience, and since Burke clearly planned to follow the course defined by Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) certification policy as outlined in Bulletin 746, and since she advised White to file an appeal based upon anticipated denial of his EDL3 application (see the first post of this series), it is logical to conclude that if White’s EDL3 application had come across her desk, she would not have approved it based upon discussion in secret meetings held behind closed doors and supposedly protected by attorney-client privilege (see the second post in this series).

Based upon her conduct as disclosed in emails already discussed in previous posts, Burke would have followed policy.

However, on March 11, 2016, Barbara Burke left LDOE to assume the position of human resources director for West Baton Rouge Parish Schools.

On March 04, 2016, Burke issued the following text as part of a mass email to a number of her LDOE colleagues:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I’ve been able to talk to a few of you in person over the past few days, but I’ve missed a few and didn’t want to leave the Department without saying a proper goodbye and thank you. In case you were not already aware, I wanted to let you know that Friday, March 11 will be my last day here and take this opportunity to say thank you for all of the inspiration, feedback, and support you have offered me over
the past twelve years.

As some of you know, I’ll be starting a new job as the Director of Human Resources and Staff Development for the West Baton Rouge School System. This is truly an exciting opportunity for me and a chance to work with a new group of educators while sharing all the knowledge I have gained here at the Department. I would never have had such an opportunity, though, were it not for the people and
the work here at the Department that have challenged and encouraged me.

I do hope our paths will cross again. Until then, you can reach me anytime at
XXXXXX@XXX.com. Please don’t hesitate to contact me via my personal email address if there’s ever anything I can do to assist you.

Take care, and stay in touch!

Thanks again for being such outstanding colleagues.

Barbara
Barbara Burke
Director, Division of Educator Licensure
Talent Office
Louisiana Department of Education

Given the timing of Burke’s departure, I wondered, was her exit were somehow connected to White’s EDL3 certification?

On September 16, 2017, I was able to connect with her by phone to ask that one question. She answered that it was not.

Even so, given Burke’s reputation for following policy, her exit was likely a turn of good fortune for White.

In Burke’s absence, there was no June 08, 2016, EDL3 denial for John White– only approval.

But before I continue, I must include some information I found regarding the Teacher Certification Appeals Council (TCAC) in Bulletin 746:

The state superintendent has a say in who sits on TCAC.

From Bulletin 746, page 69:

Pursuant to Louisiana Revised Statute 17:7(6)(f), the TCAC shall consist of nine members recommended by the state superintendent of education and approved by BESE as follows. Council members shall serve four-year terms.

In my first post of this series, I noted that it was curious that White wanted to know when TCAC members’ terms expired. Barbara Burke asked her cert colleague, Regina Poole, this question in a December 04, 2015, email.

Poole’s response: “This current Council began in 2014 so their term will be done in 2018.”

Since White became superintendent in 2012, he was involved in the appointment of all TCAC members.

Therefore, an appeal to TCAC for substituting two years of admin for the two years of certificated teaching that he lacks for EDL3 certification (Burke’s advice based on Bulletin 746) would have presented a conflict of interest.

We live in strange times when a state superintendent does not already possess the minimum certificated years of teaching to easily obtain a credential necessary for a local superintendency, but there it is.

Despite this strangeness, there was more than one course of action that White could have taken and that either followed current policy or followed the established course for altering current policy.

First of all, White could have followed the route available for district superintendents who lack EDL3: Hire a chief academic officer who meets EDL3 certification requirements to serve under the uncertified district superintendent.

Second, White could have waited until 2018 to apply for EDL3 certification. By then, all of his TCAC appointees would have finished their terms. If White were still state superintendent at the time, he could have brought the conflict of interest issue before BESE, the policy-making body that also serves as White’s boss.

And that brings us to another critical point:

In trying to address his EDL3 complications, White never included BESE.

In the face of his lacking five certificated teaching years and also encountering conflict of interest issues because of his TCAC appointments, White never consulted the body that could have established policy to address his situation.

It was the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) that waived any EDL certification for White to become Recovery School District (RSD) superintendent in 2011. It was BESE that waived EDL certification for White to become state superintendent in 2012. (See page 3 of this Title 28 excerpt.) It was BESE who set the policy for both EDL certification and associated TCAC appointment and appeal.

Thus, BESE could have established a course of action for White to appeal EDL3 denial– for example, by establishing a special committee to hear White’s case– a situation that could have ensured that whatever White chose as a substitute for his missing two years of certificated teaching would have been closely examined by a public body.

As it stands, White chose to remove himself from public view, and with at least one lawyer and a number of LDOE admin– all of whom work under him– this secretive group just decided to declare White’s five years as a Teach for America (TFA) executive director as “years of teaching”– without offering a bit of evidence regarding how much of that time White taught, and what he taught.

The mystery group also glosses over another conflict of interest:

In his role as Louisiana state superintendent, White has entered into numerous contracts with TFA worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

A neutral, public board is needed to scrutinize documentation from TFA regarding how much of White’s time as TFA exec was used for teaching.

Instead, some behind-the-scenes committee headed by White just decided White’s experience would do, and if the public asks for any details, then the response is, “Sorry. Attorney-client privilege.”

However, the word from White’s LDOE is that White possesses eight years of teaching experience based on his time as TFA exec director. The word “certificated” is omitted from the LDOE declaration, as is any explanation concerning how the decision was reached.

There is no evidence that anyone actually inventoried White’s time and activities as a TFA “teacher mentor,” and there is no evidence that, if such scrutiny occurred, the evaluation was conducted by a neutral party. (For more on White’s TFA time in Chicago and examination of related TFA contracts, see this post.)

The state’s opaque declaration that White actually has eight years of teaching experience in “English as part of a mix of subjects” should never have occurred.

And that brings us to the final email related to White’s certification, drafted by Regina Poole, the person who signed off on White’s EDL3 certificate– and who attested by her signature to White’s having five years of certificated teaching.

The email was set to her boss, asst. supt. of “talent,” Hannah Dietsch, on June 08, 2016.

Also, copied is LDOE director of ed prep policy, Sara Strickland:

From: Hannah Dietsch

Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2016 8:33 PM
To: Regina Poole
Cc: Sara Strickland
Subject: Re: EDL3 Certification

Thank you for letting me know!

From: Regina Poole <regina.poole@la.gov>
Date: Wed, 8 Jun 2016 12:28:31 ‐0500
To: Hannah Dietsch <hannah.dietsch@la.gov>
Cc: Sara Strickland <sara.strickland@la.gov>
Subject: EDL3 Certification

Hi Hannah,

John’s Educational Leader 3 certificate was issued today.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Thanks,

Gina

 

Regina Poole has since retired from LDOE.

And with that, my friends, I conclude my series on my email investigation of White’s teaching experience.

john white 8  John White

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Investigating John White’s Teaching Experience: The Emails (Part III)

I have been writing a series about Louisiana state superintendent John White’s lack of the minimum five years of certificated teaching experience necessary for the education leader 3 (EDL3) certificate that the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) granted him anyway on June 08, 2016.

This series is based upon the results of 11 LDOE public records requests that I filed between July 01, 2017, and August 24, 2017.

This post is the third in that series. (Click these links to view part 1 and part 2.)

I concluded the second post by noting that White altered his original intention to apply for all three ed leader certifications (EDL1, EDL2, and EDL3); he decided to forego applying for EDL3 (the certification that happens to require five years of certificated teaching) and continued to pursue EDL1 and EDL2 (with EDL2 requiring three years of certificated teaching).

White’s “confidential assistant,” Vicky Thomas, was in contact with ed cert director Barbara Burke, on December 07, 2015, in an effort to clarify what White needed to do for Louisiana EDL certification (read from bottom up):

From: Vicky Thomas
Sent: Monday, December 07, 2015 11:18 AM
To: Barbara Burke
Subject: RE: Educational Leadership Licensure information requested

Whenever you get a chance to stop by & discuss, I would appreciate it. I know we have a meeting with John tomorrow at 12:30, but just want to understand beforehand.

Thanks.

Vicky
From: Barbara Burke
Sent: Monday, December 07, 2015 10:41 AM
To: Vicky Thomas; Hannah Dietsch
Subject: RE: Educational Leadership Licensure information requested

Yes‐ exactly, Vicky.

If you need to talk today, just let me know when a good time would be.

Thanks,

Barbara
From: Vicky Thomas
Sent: Monday, December 07, 2015 10:41 AM
To: Barbara Burke; Hannah Dietsch
Subject: RE: Educational Leadership Licensure information requested

I’m trying to understand what John needs to do to be certified in LA. Does he need to take the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA) & School Superintendent Assessment (SSA) as well as apply for the Education Leader certificate?

 

Note that the SLLA is the test necessary for EDL1 certification, and SSA is necessary for EDL3 certification.

As noted in my second post, December 07-08, 2015, were the two days that Burke met (in person and via phone) with Thomas, asst superintendent of “talent,” Hannah Dietsch, presumably asst. supt. of policy Erin Bendily, and White himself regarding White’s EDL certifications.

And it was on December 09, 2015, that Burke emailed cert comrade, Regina Poole, about meeting again with Thomas and believing that White would not file an appeal for his lacking two of the five certificated years of teaching for EDL3 certification, a course of action that Burke suggested to White in an email on December 07, 2015.

By deciding not to appeal, it seems that White had chosen not to pursue EDL3 certification. However, a January 27, 2016, email from Vicky Thomas to Barbara Burke indicated that White had taken the SLLA on January 04, 2016, and was scheduled to take the SSA (the test needed for EDL3 cert) on March 11, 2016.

On January 19, 2016, Dietsch made it clear to Burke that the plan had changed; instead of applying for EDL1, 2, and 3 at the same time, White would now be applying for EDL1 and 2 only, with no mention of when he would apply for EDL3 (though one might presume it would be after the results from his March 11, 2016, sitting for the SSA exam).

All of this reads logical: If White were in a rush to get some EDL certification– if White believed that the clock was ticking and his time as state super was coming to an end– then get EDL1 and 2 as soon as the January 04, 2016, SLLA score was posted in order to have at least some certification on the books.

But here is the unusual piece:

When Dietsch sent an email to Burke regarding the change, she copied both Thomas and an attorney– LDOE general counsel, Joan Hunt:

From: Hannah Dietsch
Sent: Tuesday, January 19, 2016 11:30 AM
To: Barbara Burke
Cc: Vicky Thomas; Joan Hunt
Subject: Certification

Hi, Barbara‐

Could you please work with Vicky to:

1. Transfer John’s NJ teaching license to Louisiana; he holds a permanent license in NJ, so we should offer whatever the equivalent is in La

2. As soon as John has a passing SLA score, issue the Ed Leader 1 certificate (via Alternate Pathway 1)

3. As soon as Ed Leader 1 is issued, issue Ed Leader 2 certificate (counting years of successful service as State Supt.)

Would like to get these processes in motion this week. Could you pop up to see Vicky to make sure that you have all the documentation we need?

Thank you!

Hannah

 

None of the many emails previously exchanged among Burke, Thomas, Dietsch, and even White, included Joan Hunt.

Why copy a lawyer in an email chain?

As a witness that a certain directive was sent; as a means of communicating to the recipient that the information in the email is to be taken seriously; as a means of legally protecting the sender and/or receiver; as a means of intimidating the recipient.

Any and all are possible reasons….

Another issue to consider is the consequence of Burke’s following through with the original course of action– processing all three of White’s EDL certifications simultaneously:

This course of action would have produced a formal denial of White’s EDL3 application– a paper trail, so to speak.

It seems that part of the goal of Dietsch’s January 19, 2016, email to Burke was to make certain that no such formal denial would exist. Such a critical aim appears to be in line with Dietsch’s uncharacteristic addition of Joan Hunt in this particular email communication.

Within the hour, Burke contacted Thomas, as instructed:

Vicky Thomas
Sent: Tuesday, January 19, 2016 1:10 PM
To: Barbara Burke
Subject: RE: Certification

Come on over when you get a chance.
From: Barbara Burke
Sent: Tuesday, January 19, 2016 12:24 PM
To: Vicky Thomas
Subject: FW: Certification

Hey Vicky,

Just let me know when a good time is to meet with you on this.

Thanks,

Barbara
From: Hannah Dietsch
Sent: Tuesday, January 19, 2016 11:30 AM
To: Barbara Burke
Cc: Vicky Thomas; Joan Hunt
Subject: Certification

Hi, Barbara‐

Could you please work with Vicky to:

1. Transfer John’s NJ teaching license to Louisiana; he holds a permanent license in NJ, so we should offer whatever the equivalent is in La

2. As soon as John has a passing SLA score, issue the Ed Leader 1 certificate (via Alternate Pathway 1)

3. As soon as Ed Leader 1 is issued, issue Ed Leader 2 certificate (counting years of successful service as State Supt.)

Would like to get these processes in motion this week. Could you pop up to see Vicky to make sure that you have all the documentation we need?

Thank you!

Hannah

 

Note also that Dietsch’s request to transfer White’s New Jersey teaching certificate to Louisiana makes no sense– unless White were planning to re-enter the classroom.

As it turns out, White’s New Jersey teaching certificate was not transferred to Louisiana. Even so, by February 20, 2016, Burke had awarded White EDL1 and EDL2 certification. (Transferring an out-of-state teaching certificate to Louisiana is not a necessary condition for EDL certification.)

The question remained regarding White’s EDL3 certification. Yes, he was waiting the take the SSA exam, and that exam result would be necessary for meeting the conditions for EDL3 certification.

But so would either providing proof of five years of certificated teaching (which White clearly does not possess) or receiving a formal denial and facing the Teacher Certification Appeals Committee (TCAC) (which it appears that White was not willing to do).

However, the day that White was scheduled to take the SSA exam– March 11, 2016– ended up being Burke’s last day as LDOE ed cert director–

–which is where I will resume the next post.

john white 6  John White

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Investigating John White’s Teaching Experience: The Emails (Part II)

On June 08, 2016, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) issued the third of three administrator’s certificates to Louisiana state superintendent John White.

That final certificate, “ed leader level 3” (EDL3), requires the bearer to have a minimum of five years of teaching experience in an area of certification (see Bulletin 746 for specifics). However, John White only has three years of teaching experience in an area of certification. Even so, he was granted EDL3.

Between April and July 2017, I wrote a number of posts on this issue (click here to view).

Furthermore, between July 01, 2017, and August 24, 2017, I submitted to LDOE 11 public records requests related to John White’s EDL certification, mostly for emails spanning December 2015 to June 2016 and resulting in hundreds of pages of emails in response.

On September 11, 2017, I published the first of a series of posts based upon what I gleaned from those 11 public records requests.

In sum, here is what I learned from the email exchanges featured in that first post:

  1. John White expected and sought a shortcut means of acquiring Louisiana’s ed leader credentials. And why not? He was a deputy superintendent in New York without applying for any formal credential. He was then briefly New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) superintendent without applying for any formal credential, on his way to becoming Louisiana state superintendent (again) without applying for any formal credential. However, in the case of his applying for Louisiana’s ed leader credentials, there was no shortcut available. He would have to meet the same certification requirements as any other applicant, including completing certification tests and submitting for formal review letters of recommendation, college transcripts, and evidence of his experience as a certified classroom teacher.
  2. The director of licensure, Barbara Burke, was willing to assist White and to answer his many questions, both via email and phone. However, she did not bend even when White dropped the corner-cutting hint about being allowed to dodge the current, detailed application process in favor of a process that was discontinued in 2008. From the emails examined in the first post, it is clear that Burke planned to treat White’s application with fairness and without favoritism.
  3. Early in the process (December 07, 2015), White acknowledged that his “number of years in the certificated area” was an issue that needed addressing, and Burke clearly responded that if White chose to pursue EDL3, he “would need to appeal to TCAC (Teacher Certification Appeals Council) in March [2016– the next TCAC meeting] to ask for two years of leadership experience to be used in lieu of the two years of teaching” that White lacked in order to have the required five years of teaching in an area of certification necessary to be granted the EDL3 certificate.

 

A number of email exchanges transpired between Barbara Burke and Vicky Thomas, John White’s “confidential assistant” (her actual title) on December 07, 2015, and with Burke, Thomas, Asst. Supt. of Talent, Hannah Dietsch, and (copied but not responding) Asst. Supt. of Policy/ Govt. Affairs, Erin Bendily, on December 08, 2015, all of which centered around discussion of what documentation White needed to submit for the EDL certifications.

Burke met with Thomas on December 07, 2015, a “meeting before the meeting,” so to speak, before participating in a meeting by phone with White, Thomas, Dietsch, and Bendily on December 08, 2015, all of which centered on discussing what White needed to do for those EDL certifications.

However, it is important to note that prior to the December 08, 2015, phone meeting that included White, Burke emailed White and copied Thomas, Dietsch, and Bendily with the email included in my first post in which Burke advised White to file an appeal with TCAC over his having only three years of teaching experience in an area of certification and needing five. She also attached Bulletin 746, which includes the five-year certificated teaching requirement for EDL3 certification.

Here are Burke’s words, in brief (entire email is included in my first post):

I feel the Ed Leader 3 route is the best option. It will require you to appeal to TCAC in March to ask for 2 years of leadership experience to be used in lieu of the 2 years of teaching.

The reason this background is important is that by December 09, 2015, Burke believed that White would not file an appeal– a necessary component for his being awarded EDL3 certification, assuming TCAC approved his appeal. As Burke communicated to LDOE Education Program Consultant and certification colleague, Regina Poole:

From: Barbara Burke
Sent: Wednesday, December 09, 2015 11:18 AM
To: Regina Poole
Subject: Fwd: Quick question on ESEA reauthorization

Just Fyi, Gina. Don’t share.

I’ll call you in a little while.

I have a mtg to go to about the ESEA reauthorization at 12:30.

Then I have a mtg with Vicky about John’s application. I don’t think he is appealing to Tcac. I’ll know more this afternoon.

Both of these items are confidential.

Thx so much

Keeping you in the loop!

B

Sent from my iPhone

Indeed, White did not file an appeal. As per the minutes of the March 2016 TCAC meeting, White was not on the agenda. This is not unexpected given that he changed his mind and chose not to apply for EDL3 prior to the March 2016 TCAC meeting. Since there was no formal denial of his EDL3 application, there was no decision to appeal.

This March 2016 TCAC meeting was the only meeting held prior to Regina Poole’s approval of White’s EDL3 application on June 08, 2016.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

On August 01, 2017, I filed a public records request with LDOE as follows:

From: Mercedes Schneider [mailto:deutsch29@aol.com]
Sent: Tuesday, August 01, 2017 10:39 PM
To: LDEPublicRecords <LDEPublicRecords@la.gov>
Subject: FOIA John White TCAC

In her email to John White (dated 12-08-15) Barbara Burke wrote the following regarding John White’s application for ed leader 3 certification:

“I feel the Ed Leader 3 route is the best option. It will require you to appeal to TCAC in March to ask for 2 years of leadership experience to be used in lieu of the 2 years of teaching.”

As per Louisiana Public Records Statutes, please provide:

Any documentation related to John White’s appealing to TCAC as per Barbara Burke’s suggestion noted above, or any documentation related to John White using 2 years of leadership experience in lieu of 2 years of teaching.

Thank you.

–Mercedes Schneider

I received this response from LDOE, dated August 24, 2017:

LDErecords 08-24-17

The above public record response confirms that any and all discussion of White’s lacking the necessary five years of certificated teaching necessary for EDL3 certification was just that– discussion– and it happened behind closed doors and yielded no formal appeal to TCAC to substitute any of White’s other professional experience for the additional two years of certificated teaching experience that he lacks to this day.

Had White followed through on his original plan to apply for EDL1, 2 and 3 at the same time, as indicated by Barbara Burke’s December 04, 2015, email to Regina Poole (“Hey Gina‐ this is for John‐ anything missing. He is applying for ed leader 1, 2,3 at the same time using the ed leader packet.” See first post for complete email), then Burke would have undoubtedly issued a denial connected to White’s lacking the requisite five years of certificated teaching experience.

This would have left a record– formal denial of EDL3 connected to White– and likely a second record– White’s formal appeal to TCAC.

However, on January 19, 2016, Dietsch emailed Burke and altered White’s original intention to apply for all three EDL certifications.

I’ll pick up there in the next post in this series.

john white 5  John White

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Investigating John White’s Teaching Experience: The Emails (Part I)

In January 2012, John White became Louisiana state superintendent. He did not need any certification for the position. All that he needed was at least 8 votes from the 11-member state board (BESE), which he received from a purchased state board.

In January 2016, White needed another 8 votes to renew his contract. The 2015 BESE board elections were again purchased; however, White did not come up with the necessary 8 votes to renew his contract.

As of this writing, BESE has not addressed White’s contract.

Even so, in December 2015, White began to take action to acquire ed leadership credentials that would allow him to become a credentialed administrator in Louisiana’s schools.

The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) has three credentials for ed leadership. The first two (EDL1 and EDL2) require three years of teaching experience in an area of certification and allow the bearer to become an assistant principal or principal of a school.

The third certificate, EDL3, requires five years of teaching experience in an area of certification and allows the bearer to become a district superintendent.

The issue at hand is that John White does not have five years of teaching experience in a certified area. Still, he managed to receive EDL3 certification in June 2016.

Specifically, White received his EDL1 and EDL2 certifications on February 19, 2016, signed by Barbara Burke, and his EDL3 on June 08, 2016, signed by Regina Poole.

(For extensive background on White’s EDL certifications, see this post.)

In an effort to gain additional information on White’s EDL application process, between July 01, 2017, and August 24, 2017, I submitted 11 public records requests related to John White’s EDL certification, spanning December 2015 to June 2016 and resulting in hundreds of pages of emails.

Below is the first installment of what I have learned. The information is too long for a single post.

The first email communication was on December 04, 2015, from Barbara Burke (Director, LDOE Division of Education Licensure) to Regina Poole (LDOE Education Program Consultant):

From: Barbara Burke
Sent: Friday, December 04, 2015 10:47 AM
To: Regina Poole
Subject: quick review

Hey Gina‐ this is for John‐ anything missing. He is applying for ed leader 1, 2,3 at the same time using the ed leader packet.

Thks

B

Really appreciate your looking at this.

Steps to follow:
1. Complete and submit pages 5‐6 only of the attached Educational Leader application. The other pages do not apply. Check off Ed Leader level 1, 2, and 3 on page 5.

2. Attach copies of any teaching certificates you hold in other states.

3. Attach a letter from all previous employing school districts or other employing authorities verifying beginning and ending dates of all education experience including teaching experience, leadership experience, management or director experience etc.

4. Attach copies of all transcripts from colleges/universities you attended showing all degrees earned and the dates conferred.

5. Attach a letter from the Program Director of the Educational Leadership Program you completed verifying successful completion of all components of the program.

6. Attach a copy of the School Leadership Licensure Assessment Praxis exam score report.

7. Attach a copy of the School Superintendent Assessment Praxis exam score report.

8. Attach a letter from the Executive Director of BESE verifying you met the standards of effectiveness as an Educational Leader for three years

 

Barbara Burke
Director, Division of Educator Licensure
Talent Office
Louisiana Department of Education

Here is what Barbara Burke sent the next day, December 05, 2015. Notice that White apparently requested information on the appeals process; also notice the notes at the bottom, one of which indicates a course of action in case of denial:

From: Barbara Burke
Sent: Saturday, December 05, 2015 5:00 PM
To: John White
Cc: Hannah Dietsch; Vicky Thomas; Barbara Burke
Subject: Educational Leadership Licensure information requested

Attachments: Ed Leader Packet 4_13_15.pdf; Act 31 HB 183 of 2009 Regular Session.pdf; Teacher
Certification Appeals Council Members 2014.docx; Appeals Application Packet 12_
15.pdf

Hi, John-

Thanks so much for reaching out for assistance with the Educational Leadership certification/licensure process. It is my pleasure to assist you throughout the process in any way.

Per your request, I am attaching four documents pertinent to the Educational Leadership certification application process and the Certification Appeals application process.

1. Educational Leader Application
2. Certification Appeals Application
3. Certification Appeals Statute
4. Certification Appeals Council Members

Steps to Follow in Applying for Educational Leadership Levels 1, 2, and 3 Certification:

1. 1. Complete pages 5‐6 only of the attached Educational Leader application. The other pages do not apply. Check off you are applying for Ed Leader level 1, 2, and 3 on page 5.

2. 2. To pages 5‐6 of the application, attach the following items included in the checklist below:

 teaching certificates held in other states
 letters from all previous employing school districts/employing authorities verifying beginning and ending dates
of all education experience including teaching, leadership, management or director experience etc.
 transcripts from colleges/universities attended showing all degrees earned and the dates conferred
 a letter from the Program Director of the Educational Leadership Program you attended verifying successful
completion of all components of the program
 the School Leadership Licensure Assessment Praxis exam score report
 the School Superintendent Assessment Praxis exam score report
 a letter from the Executive Director of BESE verifying your employment in a leadership capacity including the effective hire date and requesting issuance of the Educational Leader level 1, 2 and 3 licenses and verifying you met the standards of effectiveness as an Educational Leader for three years stating the specific years
 a $100.00 check or money order made out to the Louisiana Department of Education ‐ (50$ processing fee for the Educational Leader level 1 license; 25$ fee to upgrade to the Educational Leader level 2 license; $25 fee to upgrade to the Educational Leader level 3 license)

3. 3. Submit pages 5‐6 of the application, all supporting documentation in the checklist above and the processing fee to Barbara Burke in 4‐168 for an official evaluation.

Notes:
 The Educational Leader licenses you qualify for will be issued and available on the day the application is evaluated at http://www.teachlouisiana.net under the “Certification” tab and under “verify a Louisiana certificate.”
 The Educational Leader licenses that you do not qualify for will be denied, and a feedback letter stating the deficiencies and how to initiate the certification appeals process will be sent to you on the day the application is processed.
I hope this information is helpful to you.

If you have any follow‐up questions or need further guidance, please do not hesitate to contact me via email at barbara.burke@la.gov or by phone at 225‐933‐8402.

Barbara

Barbara Burke
Director, Division of Educator Licensure
Talent Office
Louisiana Department of Education

One day later, on December 06, 2015, John White responds with a question for Barbara Burke. It seems that he realizes he might need to file an appeal regarding his qualifications:

On Dec 6, 2015, at 8:21 PM, John White <John.White@la.gov> wrote:

Barbara, thanks for all of this. It’s very helpful.

One question: the law refers to the issue of teacher certification and the council is a
teacher certification counsel. It doesn’t mention anything about administrator or leader certification. Do we use the counsel to cover leader certification appeals as a matter of habit or is that spelled out in the policy somewhere?

J

On the evening of the same day, White answers his own question about the appeals board (it is the same board for both teacher cert and admin cert). And White has some more questions. Asst. Supt. in charge of “talent,” Hannah Dietsch, answers two of White’s three questions in caps.

At 4:42 a.m. on December 07, 2015, White directs Burke to where he believes she can find info to answer his second question.

It is curious that White wanted to know when appeals council members’ terms expire:

From: John White
Sent: Monday, December 07, 2015 4:42 AMTo: Hannah Dietsch
Cc: Barbara Burke; Vicky Thomas
Subject: Re: Educational Leadership Licensure information requested

It’s 712 in the bulletin. Thanks for doing this.

Sent from my iPhone

On Dec 6, 2015, at 11:44 PM, “Hannah Dietsch” <Hannah.Dietsch@LA.GOV> wrote:

Barbara, can you answer #2?

See below for responses to 1 and 3.

From: John White <John.White@LA.GOV>
Date: Sun, 6 Dec 2015 21:03:16 ‐0600
To: Barbara Burke <Barbara.Burke@LA.GOV>
Cc: Hannah Dietsch <hannah.dietsch@la.gov>, Vicky Thomas <Vicky.Thomas@LA.GOV>
Subject: Re: Educational Leadership Licensure information requested

Just found it, Barbara. No need for a response. It looks like it is in policy. I’ve found a couple other things I want to ask you about and will schedule a follow‐up discussion. Here are a couple things I’d like to understand better:

1. What is of the terms for the council members? How far into their terms are they? ALL ARE SERVING 2014‐2018 TERMS.

2. How did Mark Kolwe or other superintendents with business backgrounds earn their credentials?

3. I found something called an “LEA appeal” promulgated in October 2015 that says that “a certificate shall be issued or renewed” if the candidate has three satisfactory years as a leader. I’m wondering what this is. I THINK THAT THIS IS THE POLICY WE PASSED TO PROTECT TEACHERS AND LEADERS WHO HAD NOT BEEN EVALUATED DUE TO DISTRICT ERROR. CAN YOU POINT ME TO THE SECTION? FOR SOME
REASON, I CAN’T FIND “LEA APPEAL” IN THE BULLETIN.

Below is Burke’s response to White’s second question above. Th short answer is that the policy shortcut for administrators with business backgrounds was phased out in 2008. Thus, it does not apply to White.

Burke notes that superintendents lacking certification can accept positions as local superintendents; however, they must hire chief academic officers who possess the requirements for the credential that the superintendent does not hold:

From: Barbara Burke
Sent: Monday, December 07, 2015 10:32 AM
To: John White
Cc: Vicky Thomas; Hannah Dietsch
Subject: RE: Educational Leadership Licensure information requested

Hi, John‐

To answer your second question below regarding Mark Kolwe and other superintendents:

 2. How did Mark Kolwe or other superintendents with business backgrounds earn their credentials?

Mark Kolwe met the prior Ancillary Superintendent certification policy in Bulletin 746 that was phased out in 2008 and replaced with the current Ed Leader certification policy.

Other superintendents with business backgrounds may be serving as Superintendents under Section 505‐Certification of Personnel‐ in Bulletin 741. See below:

§505. Certification of Personnel

A. To be eligible legally for teaching, administrative, supervisory, or other professional services in the public schools of Louisiana, personnel shall hold a valid Louisiana certificate appropriate to the services rendered or shall receive annual approval in accordance with provisions allowed by BESE.

NOTE: Refer to Bulletin 746―Louisiana Standards for State Certification of School Personnel.

B. In the event that an LEA in Louisiana, through its locally authorized governing board, chooses to select a superintendent who does not meet the eligibility requirements necessary to obtain certification as a superintendent, such LEA may appoint the candidate, provided that:

1. the district appoints a chief academic officer whose primary and substantial job description shall govern the academics of the district including curriculum and instruction;

2. the chief academic officer possesses a valid state-issued teaching certificate;

3. the chief academic officer also meets all criteria required of a superintendent set forth in existing BESE policy; and

4. the chief academic officer is appointed no later than 120 days after the appointment of the superintendent candidate.

I hope this helps.

If you need anything else, please do not hesitate to ask.

Barbara 

It turns out that bulletin 712 (LEA appeal) has nothing to do with White’s application, as Burke explains to Dietsch. White does not understand, and Burke clarifies (note email times; read from bottom up):

From: Barbara Burke
Sent: Monday, December 07, 2015 1:47 PM
To: John White
Cc: Hannah Dietsch; Vicky Thomas
Subject: RE: Educational Leadership Licensure information requested

Sure, you are most welcome!

I am thinking it does not apply because your appeal does not pertain to your not meeting the standards of effectiveness.

I hope this helps.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Thanks,

Barbara

 

From: John White
Sent: Monday, December 07, 2015 1:24 PM
To: Barbara Burke
Cc: Hannah Dietsch; Vicky Thomas
Subject: Re: Educational Leadership Licensure information requested

Thanks, Barbara. Why wouldn’t this apply to my situation?

Sent from my iPhone

 

On Dec 7, 2015, at 12:50 PM, “Barbara Burke” <Barbara.Burke@LA.GOV> wrote:

Hey Hannah‐ This section does not apply to John’s application. It pertains to the local education agency appeal process, if an Ed Leader did not meet the standards of effectiveness initially, but the district receives additional information to overturn that rating.

Hope this helps.

Barbara
From: Hannah Dietsch
Sent: Monday, December 07, 2015 11:43 AM
To: Barbara Burke; John White
Cc: Vicky Thomas
Subject: Re: Educational Leadership Licensure information requested

Thank you, Barbara.

Can you also share info about Section 712, and what that means for John’s application, if anything?

Next comes a December 07, 2015, email from White about a “strategy session” regarding his certification.

Note that he asks the illogical question of acquiring certification “the older way” (i.e., the way that was phased out in 2008) or of receiving his ed admin certification from another state (the question there is whether White meant this course as a back-door to receiving La EDL cert).

Note also that White brings up the issue of “number of years in certificated area”:

From: John White
Sent: Monday, December 07, 2015 8:19 PM
To: Hannah Dietsch; Erin Bendily (DOE); Vicky Thomas; Barbara Burke
Subject: superintendent certification discussion

All,

In this discussion I’d like to follow the following chain of logic:

1. Confirm that Leader Certification Level 3 is the appropriate route, as opposed to the older form of certification or the out of state license.

2. In light of the above, confirm the appropriate policy path vis-a-vis the number of years in the certificated area.

3. Confirm the logistical steps and materials needed at this time.

Many thanks, all.

J

On December 08, 2015, Burke briefly responds to each of White’s numbered points above.

In point 1, Burke clarifies that the “older” option for White to skirt the current application process is no longer an option as of 2008.

In point 2, she makes it clear that White has only three years of teaching experience in an area of certification, and according to Bulletin 746, White needs five years of teaching experience in an area of certification. She encourages White to appeal to the Teacher Certification Appeals Council (TCAC) to have two years of admin experience substituted for the two years of teaching in an area of certification that he lacks to have the full five years.

Note that Burke does not suggest that an appeal to TCAC would somehow “create” five years (or more) of teaching experience.

Note also that Burke writes that White needs to first file his EDL application (including the EDL3 for which he lacks the requisite five years of teaching experience in an area of certification) before he could appeal the resulting EDL3 denial at the next TCAC meeting, in March 2016:

Barbara Burke
Sent: Tuesday, December 08, 2015 11:25 AM
To: John White; Erin Bendily (DOE); Vicky Thomas; Hannah Dietsch
Subject: Fwd: superintendent certification discussion

Attachments: Superintendent Certification Policies per Bulletin 746.docx; ATT00001.htm

Hi, John-

This email is to provide a few notes for you before the call.

1. The 3 routes in B746 to Superintendent certification are attached. The 3rd option was phased out in 2008.

2. I feel the Ed Leader 3 route is the best option. It will require you to appeal to TCAC in March to ask for 2 years of leadership experience to be used in lieu of the 2 years of teaching.

3. The documents below are required so I can complete the official evaluation and you can submit the appeals application and be placed on the March agenda.
Steps to Follow in Applying for Educational Leadership Levels 1, 2, and 3 Certification:

1. 1. Complete pages 5-6 only of the attached Educational Leader application. The other pages do not apply. Check off you are applying for Ed Leader level 1, 2, and 3 on page 5.

2. 2. To pages 5-6 of the application, attach the following items included in the checklist below:

 teaching certificates held in other states
 letters from all previous employing school districts/employing authorities verifying beginning and ending dates of all education experience including teaching, leadership, management or director experience etc.
 transcripts from colleges/universities attended showing all degrees earned and the dates conferred
 a letter from the Program Director of the Educational Leadership Program you attended verifying successful completion of all components of the program
 the School Leadership Licensure Assessment Praxis exam score report
 the School Superintendent Assessment Praxis exam score report
 a letter from the Executive Director of BESE verifying your employment in a leadership capacity including the effective hire date and requesting issuance of the Educational Leader level 1, 2 and 3 licenses and verifying you met the standards of effectiveness as an Educational Leader for three years stating the specific years
 a $100.00 check or money order made out to the Louisiana Department of Education ‐ (50$ processing fee for the Educational Leader level 1 license; 25$ fee to upgrade to the Educational Leader level 2 license; $25 fee to upgrade to the Educational Leader level 3 license)

3. 3. Submit pages 5-6 of the application, all supporting documentation in the checklist above and the processing fee to Barbara Burke in 4-168 for an official evaluation.

Thanks,

Barbara

Enough for this installment. Stay tuned.

john white 2017  John White

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Teach for America’s Houston T-shirt Sale

Teach for America (TFA) sells apparel advertising its organization.

One can dish out brand-name bucks by purchasing TFA apparel via J Crew (see here and here, for example), or one can purchase less expensive TFA apparel at the TFA online store.

At the TFA online store, one can purchase a TFA t-shirt for $11.95 (plus shipping).

As I was browsing TFA Houston’s Facebook page, I noticed an ad for TFA t-shirt sales “with the proceeds going towards helping those in our network affected by [Hurricane] Harvey”:

Our Teach For America – Houston swag shop now has #HOUSTONSTRONG items for sale with the proceeds going towards helping those in our network affected by #Harvey.

In the face of challenges, we rise to the occasion. We volunteer. We roll up our sleeves and get to work. We give. We put on for our city. We are #HOUSTONSTRONG.

I was curious about how much money from each t-shirt sale would be designated for Harvey assistance, so I clicked on the TFA swag shop link.

TFA Houston’s Harvey fundraiser t-shirt is priced at $23.99 (plus shipping) an is accompanied with the following self-gratulating text:

In the face of challenges, we rise to the occasion. We volunteer. We roll up our sleeves and get to work. We give. We put on for our city. We are #HoustonStrong.

With the purchase of this shirt, you’ll be making a $10 donation to families affected by Harvey.

If one purchases a TFA t-shirt on the main TFA apparel website as opposed to on the TFA Houston site, one could donate the $12 difference to Harvey relief as opposed to overpaying TFA to send $10 in relief. (Note: Not an “if” for me to buy TFA wear.)

Or one could purchase the notably overpriced T-shirt from the newly devised TFA Houston swag shop site and end up giving TFA a $2 tip after it donates $10 for Harvey relief.

Indeed, TFA additionally benefits from your TFA Houston t-shirt purchase as follows:

  1. TFA gets continued advertising via folks wearing its t-shirts.
  2. TFA gets even more mileage for advertising that TFA is “donating” funds to Harvey.
  3. TFA has used a crisis to slyly fund-raise for itself (i.e., remaining profit, including that $2 tip).

Just how much is the wholesale cost of a printed tee like the one TFA Houston is selling?

Let’s estimate.

According to Custom Ink, if I order 500 color Gildan Ultra Cotton Tees (a good quality t-shirt) with a print on one side in 7 colors (like the TFA Houston t-shirt) and have them delivered to New York (zip 10004, TFA headquarters), each t-shirt would cost $6.76 (shipping free). (Note: Price is the same if shipped to TFA Houston, zip 77046, though shipping to Houston does not seem sensible given the post-Harvey devastation.)

If I increase the order to 2,000 shirts, the price per shirt decreases to $4.87.

At 5,000 shirts, the price becomes $4.14 per shirt.

Hmm.

TFA’s Harvey fundraiser is less altruism and more opportunism, especially as one considers setting the retail price.

T-shirt Magazine Online offers the following guidelines about retail t-shirt pricing:

COMMON T-SHIRT PRICES

Let’s take a look at some of the common price ranges for t-shirts:

$10-$15

This is usually found in new brands who plan on going with the ‘cheap shirts’ approach or brands who have been around for a while and can afford huge bulk orders that allow them to sell their t-shirts for low costs and still get a good profit.

$16-$24

The unofficial average price range for the majority of t-shirt brands. Most brands you come across will have their tees at this price range whether they’re new or have been around for a while. Great profit margin if you can afford huge orders, good enough margin if you place small wholesale orders.

Typically, retailers will take your product and sell it for 2x as much as they bought it for.  [Emphasis added.]

If I pay $6.76 per t-shirt and sell each for $23.99, I am making a killing.

If my cost per shirt drops below $5, it’s even more of a killing.

In donating $10 per price-hiked TFA Houston t-shirt, TFA is using Harvey as a fundraising opportunity for itself.

Either that, or TFA is selectively poor at getting a suitable wholesale price on its t-shirts.

dollar sign question mark

_________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.