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

September 15, 2017

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? 

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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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