La. Supt. John White Falsely Credentials Himself with BESE Member James Garvey’s Help
In order to have his or her contract renewed, a state education superintendent in Louisiana must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the state board of education every time a new state board is elected every four years.
That would be 8 out of 11 state board members.
In January 2012, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved John White for state superintendent by a vote of 9 to 1, with one abstention. They offered him this contract.
In January 2016, White’s contract renewal did not come up for a vote because only seven members of the newly-elected/appointed BESE board can be counted on to vote for contract renewal.
What this means is that as Louisiana state superintendent, John White is now a month-to-month employee. As it stands, BESE is locked in a holding pattern where a majority of 7 are holding on to White (and will not seek a replacement), but without the ability to sway one more vote, this majority cannot offer White another contract. (To read about the office of Louisiana state superintendent, including terms of appointment and continued employment, see page 3 of this Title 28 excerpt.)
In order to be Louisiana state superintendent, White does not need any certification or licensure. And to be state superintendent, he does not need any minimum number of years in the classroom.
However, it seems that not long after the 2016 BESE board was seated, White quietly credentialed himself as a certified “educational leader” in Louisiana.
In fact, White now has three Louisiana certificates on file, all for educational leader– levels 1 through 3:
White’s certificates for educational leader 1 and educational leader 2 were issued on the same day– February 19, 2016– and with sequential certificate numbers.
The third certificate, for educational leader 3, was issued less than four months later, on June 08, 2016.
Normally, the state superintendent signs all teacher and other school certifications. Yet in a situation that drips the influence of the corporate ed reform from which White hails, White’s certificates have no state superintendent signature because of the backwards nature of this venture: It seems even too blatant for White to sign his own come-lately certifications.
All other Louisiana teaching and other certificates are signed by both the state superintendent and BESE president, Gary L. Jones.
Even Jones’ teaching certificate has these two signatures: state superintendent and BESE president (which happens to be himself).
Now, for an unusual turn:
The single signature on all three of White’s certificates is that of BESE member and avid White supporter, James Garvey.
Why current BESE president Jones’ signature is not on White’s certificate begs the question of BESE’s awareness of White’s certifications. (Current BESE president signature is on all other certificates no matter date of issuance.)
But there is more.
Louisiana’s own certification webpage directs individuals to the statutes governing certification of teachers, administrators, and other school professional-level personnel:
Certification Policy for Teachers/Leaders
The Louisiana Department of Education, Division of Teacher Certification, Preparation and Recruitment, implements and maintains teacher certification procedures as mandated by legislation and State Board policy contained in Bulletin 746?Louisiana Standards for Certification of School Personnel. The information in this section is provided as a resource to educators and school districts to ensure that:
- All Louisiana students receive instruction from appropriately credentialed and effective teachers
- All Louisiana schools are led by appropriately credentialed and effective school leaders.
The link above for Bulletin 746 includes the criteria for educational leader 1, 2, and 3 certification (see pages 65 – 67).
Educational leader 1 is the certification necessary to become lower-level administration– and it appears to be issued once a local education agency (LEA) has decided to hire an individual as a leader in one of the following administrative roles:
Educational Leader Certificate Level 1 (EDL 1)
This is the certificate needed by those who fill school and district educational leadership positions (e.g., assistant principal, principal, parish or city supervisor of instruction, supervisor of child welfare and attendance, special education supervisor, or comparable school/district leader positions). This certificate is issued upon the request of the LEA once the individual is hired to serve as an Educational Leader.
It seems that educational leader 2 exists to either help one gain experience (be a matured ed leader 1, so to speak), to offer time to gain experience, including the required minimum 3 years of teaching experience– or to take a person to educational leader 3.
In order to receive ed leader 2, one must have ed leader 1, and in order to receive ed leader 3, one must have ed leader 2.
Thus, ed leader 2 offers eligibility for no additional administrative positions in and of itself. However, ed leader 2 can lead to ed leader 3, which allows for higher-level superintendency:
Educational Leader Certificate Level 3 (EDL 3)
This certificate is required in order to serve as a school system superintendent or assistant superintendent.
So, in certifying himself as educational leader 3, White is seeking to make himself appear legit in order to possibly assume a district superintendency or assistant superintendency when his stint as a state superintendent comes to an end.
Of course, the ed reform irony here is that White already held a district superintendency, for the state-run Recovery School District (RSD), only briefly (not even a year, from mid-2011 to early 2012), as part of ushering him as swiftly as possible to the role of state superintendent. As nola.com noted in January 2012:
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education signed off on Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s pick to be Louisiana’s new superintendent of schools on Wednesday, elevating John White from his post at the head of the state’s Recovery School District just months after he arrived in New Orleans.
White’s appointment has been widely anticipated since elections for the board this past fall ensured he would have the eight-vote supermajority needed to become the next head of the state Department of Education.
In creating White’s ed leader 3 certification, it seems that White and BESE pal Garvey anticipate that a second Louisiana district superintendency for White might not be as easy to procure.
In particular, what caught my attention were the requirements for years of teaching experience, especially for the ed leader 3 certification.
Ed leader 1 does not require teaching experience. However, it seems that one holding ed leader 1 is expected to progress to ed leader 2, which requires 3 years of teaching experience.
Even though in his own Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) bio, White chooses to be hazy regarding the actual years in which he did what and where, a 2011 EdNext interview with White has him with three years of teaching experience in New Jersey with Teach for America (TFA):
TFA sent White to Jersey City, to 3,000-student Dickinson High School, overlooking the Holland Tunnel, where he taught English for three years….
His three years in the classroom at Dickinson High gives White a firm grasp of these fundamental teaching challenges, including trying to teach the same content to a room of children where the proficiency spread may be two to three grade levels.
So, for ed leader 2 certification, White has enough years in the classroom.
But not for ed leader 3 certification.
Ed leader 3 certification requires five years of teaching experience:
§ 708. Educational Leader Certificate Level 3 (EDL 3) [Formerly §709]
A. This certificate is required in order to serve as a school system superintendent or assistant superintendent.
- Eligibility requirements:
a. valid EDL 2 or one of the Louisiana administrative/supervisory certifications that preceded the educational leadership certification structure;
b. five years of teaching experience in his/her area of certification;
c. five years of successful administrative or management experience in education at the level of assistant principal or above. The assistant principal experience would be limited to a maximum of two years of experience in that position; and
d. passing score on the school superintendent assessment (SSA), in keeping with state requirements.
John White does not have five years of teaching experience in any certification, yet he now holds what amounts to a falsified Louisiana educational leader 3 certificate bearing BESE member James Garvey’s signature.
To legitimize his ed leader 3 certificate, White should have 1) become a certified teacher in Louisiana and 2) taught an additional two years in that certification.
But he didn’t do that. Instead, he did what he often does: He tries to sneak and worm his way around legitimacy.
BESE needs to confront both White and Garvey about this false credential. But to do so, the BESE majority would have to confront itself about why it continues to employ as state superintendent a man without the votes needed for contract renewal.
No breath holding here, folks.