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La. Supt. John White Seeks Ethics Advice on Business Connections to Wife, Katherine Westerhold

December 19, 2017

On July 01, 2017, Louisiana state superintendent John White married Katherine Westerhold, a former Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) “fellow” and current Relay Graduate School of Education (RGS) director of policy and government affairs.

RGS is a corporate-ed-reform storefront in which one can become a “dean” without a doctorate (see? no doctorate) so long as one demonstrates “strong alignment with Relay’s philosophy” and “excitement to start a new venture”– in other words, to start yet another RGS.

Grad school franchising.

LDE “partners” with RGS, which introduces potential conflicts of interest since White heads LDE and Westerhold is admin with RGS.

On August 14, 2017, White petitioned the Louisiana Board of Ethics (“the Board”) regarding guidance about the LDE-RGS connection given that he and Westerhold are married.

In October 2017, the Board issued guidance though Board attorney, David Bordelon. A draft of the guidance letter can be seen here.

Below is the Board’s guidance on the matter, delivered via Bordelon’s letter:

The Board concluded and instructed me to inform you that based on the facts provided regarding her employment by RGS your wife’s continued receipt of compensation from RGS is not prohibited while you serve as State Superintendent of Education and RGS has contracts with BESE which are administered through LDE.

The Board also concluded and instructed me to inform you that La RS 421112B1 prohibits you from participating in a transaction in which to your actual knowledge any member of your immediate family has a substantial economic interest. La RS 42110221 defines substantial economic interest as an economic interest which is of greater benefit to the public servant or other person than to a general class or group of persons. However, based on the facts provided, since your wife does not have a substantial economic interest in the BESE provider approval or the awarding of grants to RGS, you would not be prohibited from participating as State Superintendent in transactions involving RGS.

The Board further concluded and instructed me to inform you that Section 1114 of the Code would require your wife to file a financial disclosure statement by May 15 of each year disclosing the incomes she receives from RGS. La RS 421114 provides that each public servant and each member of his immediate family who derives anything of economic value of which he may be reasonably expected to know through a person which has bid on or entered into or is in any way financially interested in any contract, subcontract, or transaction under the supervision or jurisdiction of the agency of such public servant shall disclose information as set for in Section 1114.

Finally, the Board concluded and instructed me to inform you that your wife would be prohibited from entering into any contracts with the LDE or BESE on behalf of RGS. La RS 421113A provides that no public servant or member of such a public servant’s immediate family or legal entity in which he has a controlling interest shall bid on or enter into any contract, subcontract, or other transaction that is under the supervision or jurisdiction of the agency of such public servant.

Westerhold does not own RGS, but it sure makes for a cozy relationship between corporate ed reform state super and former Teach for America (TFA) exec John White and TFA-funnel-to-pseudo-grad-schooling RGS to have a former LDE-employed wife as a current RGS director.

(Notable comment from Ganey Arsement: “One could argue that Relay’s entire existence depends on its relationship with LDOE; therefore, Ms. Westerhold is financially vested in Relay by her dependence on continued employment. Very thin veil of ethics applied, here.”)

As it stands, both RGS and Louisiana’s state-run Recovery School District (RSD) share an address (different floors in the same building):

1615 Poydras Street, New Orleans.

Cozy.

One more:

The sister of La. assistant superintendent Hannah Dietsch, Hallie Dietsch, works alongside Westerhold at Relay as director of operations for New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Really cozy. Lots of room for an *ethical* degree or two of ed reformer separation.

JWKW2

John White and wife, Katherine Westerhold

______________________________________________________________________________________

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.

3 Comments
  1. One could argue that Relay’s entire existence depends on its relationship with LDOE; therefore, Ms. Westerhold is financially vested in Relay by her dependence on continued employment. Very thin veil of ethics applied, here.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: Does Louisiana Superintendent John White Have a Conflict of Interest? | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Katherine Westerhold White No Longer with Relay Graduate School of Education, Now Works for a “Strategic” Mystery Entity. | deutsch29

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