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On La. Governor-elect John Bel Edwards’ K12 Transition and Then Some

December 17, 2015

On November 25, 2015, Louisiana’s Governor-elect John Bel Edwards launched his transition campaign, entitled, Onward Louisiana. As of December 17, 2015, Edwards has publicized seven transition committees: economic development, fiscal matters, public safety, transportation, children and family services, higher education, and K12 education.

The purpose of these committees is to assist the governor in planning a course of action to address issues related to each area.

Based on my reading of the committee membership lists, I believe that Edwards will “govern from the center,” an idea voiced by Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA) President Scott Richard in this December 12, 2015, Advocate article.

Edwards’ committee memberships include a number of people whom I am glad to see serving. For example, the Fiscal Matters Transition Committee includes retired science teacher and education blogger Michael Deshotels, Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) government relations specialist Shane Riddle, and Senator Edwin Murray.

In addition, and regarding the K12 Transition Committee, LSBA President Scott Richard has agreed to serve as chair. The K12 Transition Committee is the largest, with 53 members to date– and it is overwhelmingly comprised of individuals who support traditional, local-board-run public education. Yes, there are some, like corporate-reform promoter and protector and former BESE members, Leslie Jacobs, about whom I have written on numerous occasions. But I daresay hers is not the driving agenda on this transition committee.

The K12 Transition Committee members are as follows (I offer links to some members I know and am glad to see serving):

Verge Ausberry II, senior associate, LSU; Annette Ballard, Calcasieu Parish School Board member and educator; Gwen Barsley, retired teacher and principal, Tangipahoa Parish public schools; Matthew Block, attorney and president of Lafourche Education Foundation; Seth Bloom, Orleans Parish School Board president; Ronnie Briggs, board chairman, The Good Shepherd School;

Vickie Brown, retired professor, Grambling State University; Larry John Carter Jr., president, United Teachers of New Orleans; Johnell Celestine, Louisiana Association of Educators board member and educator in Evangeline Parish; Cammie Claytor, educator, Thibodaux High School; Kieram Coleman, Jefferson Davis Parish School System curriculum supervisor;

Dawn Collins, public education advocate; Dina Esquiance, seventh grade social studies teacher, president, Tangipahoa Federation of Teachers; Kyle France, president, Kehoe-France, Inc; Sarah Garcia, fourth grade math/science teacher, D.C. Reeves Elementary; James Gilmore Jr., director of learning and development, Our Lady of the Lake Hospital;

Gwendolyn Hamilton, community affairs, New Schools for Baton Rouge, and CEO of the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority; Nancy Harrelson, science educator, Amite High School; Leslie Jacobs, former BESE member; Linda Johnson, former president of BESE; Darwan Lazard, assistant superintendent, Evangeline Parish; Karen Lowery, educator, Tangipahoa Parish;

Debbie Meaux, president, Louisiana Association of Educators; Allen Miller, partner, Phelps Dunbar LLP; Steve Monaghan, president, Louisiana Federation of Teachers; Andre Perry, A.M. Perry Consulting; Nora Pierce, retired supervising principal, president of stakeholders organization in St. John the Baptist Parish…

Charmaine Robiskie, retired teacher, St. John Parish; Domoine Rutledge, general counsel, East Baton Rouge School System; Ann Smith, Southern University Board of Supervisors, educator; Denise Y. Smith, teacher, Monroe City Schools; Wade Smith, superintendent, LSU Lab School; Doris Voitier, superintendent, St. Bernard Parish School System;

Mary Wardsworth, former educator, Rapides Parish School System; Lee Wheeler, math teacher, Hammond High Magnet School; Eva Dyann Wilson, former teacher, Ouachita Parish, and former member of LAE; Ralph Wilson, president, Natchitoches Parish School Board, president, Louisiana School Boards Association Black Caucus; Zenobia Carter, pre-K teacher, West Feliciana Parish;

Carla Jackson, elementary teacher, West Feliciana Parish, 2014 State Teacher of the Year; Jasmine Hall, elementary teacher, Lincoln Parish; April Durand, upper elementary teacher, Lincoln Parish; Denise Gordon, elementary teacher, DeSoto Parish; Timika Tisdale, elementary teacher, Caddo Parish; Julius Alsandor, teacher, St. Landry Parish, member, Opelousas City Council;

Shawn Fleming, executive director, Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council; Jarrett Coutee, eCampus/virtual learning administrator/counselor, Lafayette Parish; T.L. Goree, superintendent, Caddo Parish Schools; Amy Fontenot, coordinator of homeless education services, co-coordinator of Title I parental involvement, Lafayette Parish;

Melinda Mangham, educator, consultant/college advisor and retired teacher, Lafayette High School, director, M.A.P.S; Jim Malohn, chief financial officer, St. Charles Parish School System; Mary Jones, director of curriculum, Washington Parish School System; and Trey Folse, superintendent, St. Tammany Parish Schools. [Bolding and links added.]

In a multiple-email exchange on December 17, 2015, Richard had this to add regarding the K12 Transitional Committee:

I personally had little input regarding the complete make-up of the committee – the JBE (John Bel Edwards) Transition Level Leaders seated folks – the vast majority of the members were already part of the committee prior to the request to chair.

Once the process started, there was agreement from me as chair and other campaign/transition team leaders to include more teachers/school system leaders actually “in the trenches”.

The goal was to have a diverse set of voices from various aspects of the K-12 ecosystem in Louisiana. The K-12 Transition Committee is the largest committee as I understand things with 53 members.

The process is almost complete and the committee work was very robust, professional and meaningful.

The K-12 Transition Committee’s work will culminate in some practical, broad suggestions based on the areas of focus provided by the Governor-Elect: fair and equitable accountability measures; protecting local control of schools, promoting higher standards; high quality and legally funded school choice options; state funding for PreK programming; and, increasing the Minimum Foundation Program.

The sense of hope and excitement was prevalent at each committee meeting that we would hopefully reach a point in education in Louisiana whereby all stakeholders are working together to raise student achievement and overcome barriers such as poverty and lack of funding. [Consolidated response.]

The K12 Transition Committee will provide a report to the governor-elect to offer suggestions on the areas of focus determined by Edwards. I anticipate that part of his “governing from the center” will involve bringing the shadowy goings-on of charter “autonomy” into a greater rein of public accountability while preventing the state from overstepping some degree of local control. (I write “some local control” because basing local control on school letter grades is a flimsy proposition.)

But a greater issue involves ousting Louisiana Superintendent John White. Any real K12 accountability in Louisiana must include regular audits of the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE); readily available, timely information on schools such that repeated public records requests (and resulting litigation) is no longer necessary for obtaining information that should be readily available, and systematic audits of charter school practices and finances, including public reports of such audits. John White has actively worked to obscure, conceal and shape information to serve his all-too-clear, local-board-controlled-despising, corporate-reform-usurping, education agenda.

Surely the governor-elect realizes as much as he considers delivering on his desire to rid LDOE of White.

Inauguration Day cometh, and close at its heels, a special legislative session, then the regular legislative session.

After eight years of Jindal, I look forward to all three.

john bel edwards

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, published in June 2015.

both books

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

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