Skip to content

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

September 17, 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 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.

From → Uncategorized

2 Comments
  1. My research showed that White is subject to criminal charges for three offenses. It is unfortunate that now he can add an additional and more serious charge of implicating by intimidation an employee.

    Had White simply been satisfied with achieving the goal of privatization and whatever personal benefits that would have brought to him, he probably would have evaded having this huge black mark on his personal and professional record. But this final puny attempt to further his “career” exposes his true disdain for other people and his willingness to potentially destroy their careers.

    The final mystery will be how BESE and others politically tied to his shenanigans will respond and if, in the State of Louisiana, he will manage to wiggle or pay his way out of the punishment he deserves.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: