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

September 11, 2017

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

__________________________________________________________________________________________

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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.

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