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BESE Special Meeting Includes Process for Selecting La.’s Next Superintendent

January 16, 2020

On January 16, 2020, Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) held a special meeting, which included the swearing in of the 2020 BESE members; election of officers, and discussion of how to proceed with hiring Louisiana’s next state superintendent. (See video below.)

The BESE president is Sandy Holloway; vice president is Tony Davis, and secretary-treasurer is Kira Orange-Jones (which might prompt her to address her chronic absence from 38 percent of BESE meetings last term).

Regarding the process for selecting the next superintendent, Holloway proposed the following:

The Board president will establish a work group made up of four BESE members, including a work group chair, which shall serve as the nominating and screening committee, regarding the minimum qualifications and process relevant to the appointment of the state superintendent and will inform the BESE executive director of the nominees no later than January 27th. The work group will meet to develop a process for the selection of an appointment of the state superintendent. The process will be presented to the Board at the January 28th or 29th meeting for the Board’s consideration.

So, the governor apparently will not be submitting his recommendation for BESE to vote on. Instead, BESE will form a committee to nominate, offer info on minimum qualifications (which I hope includes at least five years as a classroom teacher; experience as a district superintendent, and a preference for in-state candidates), and propose a selection process.

This sounds more democratic than ed reform prefers.

Once Holloway (as BESE president) determines work group membership, BESE executive director Shan Davis will publicize the names of the four work group members.

BESE member James Garvey alluded to discussion about “a search firm being retained to help the group.” Retaining a search firm was apparently discussed but not a given. It seems that the work group will be authorized to retain a search firm but not required to do so.

I don’t like the idea of a search firm because it sounds like an effort to push for a national search (as opposed to seeking the next Louisiana superintendent within Louisiana) which, coming from Garvey, drips of ed reform.

Regarding Holloway’s motion, Stand for Children policy consultant, Keith Leger, offered the following comment:

Thank you, all, for always having the best interest of our students at the forefront of your decisions. From your guidance and leadership, we have seen tremendous growth in academic performance and educational opportunities for our students. Not only is Louisiana home now to the college football national champions. We are also recognized throughout the country as a leader of states in terms of student-centered policies. You all, collectively, have pushed the targets at a distance that is both challenging but yet reachable. I would encourage you, and I’m hopeful, that you will continue to put our students, all of our students, at the forefront of your decisions, moving forward with this very important decision. Thank you.

Stand for Children spent $168K of its Oregon money on six 2019 BESE candidates, all of whom were elected or re-elected. Leger’s words appear to have been a reminder for the electeds to stay the ed-reform course.

BESE appointee Thomas Roque stated:

I would like to offer a motion that the Board work with the executive director of BESE to schedule a forum for BESE members and for our Board on the 28th or the 29th of January, at which time we can revisit, particularly with our new members, revisit the vision, the mission, and the strategic goals for BESE, and the directions that our [work] will be on.

Holly Boffy mentioned that there are “some strong documents in place” that could serve as a starting point for discussion “so we don’t have to start from scratch.” Roque concurred.

In closing, I believe there is a different atmosphere surrounding the 2020 BESE. Yes, there is the school-choice-test-centered, ed-reform presence on this board, but it seems that the ed-reform heyday is past, that the 2020 BESE is more subdued, despite it including mostly individuals whose campaigns received notable ed-reform cash.

The departure of John White marks an important ending to Louisiana’s ed-reform worst.

I’ll leave it there for now.



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  1. Kay Stiles permalink

    Praying that BESE gets it right this time, for the children and teachers of Louisiana.
    You can make a difference!
    Kay Stiles

  2. Lance Hill permalink

    BESE board has enormous power. I doubt they will disobey their corporate puppet masters. They can make life miserable for and Superintedent and will help supress any information that John White has been covering up.

    • Robert Tellman permalink

      I hope, but do not believe, your optimism is well placed. Do not be deceived into thinking these BESE members have Louisiana’s citizens’ well-being at heart. If we sit by and be deceived again, we will have more of the same for who knows how many more years to come.

      Now is not the time to be complacent and trust BESE to do the ethical thing. It is the time to demand they do so. Shame on us if we do not. Where is the outcry from Louisiana’s teachers for these elected officials to really think about the students and what it truly means to be educated?

      Anyone who thinks there are not machinations going on behind closed doors is naive. Anyone who does not think John White is trying to influence the selection of his successor is naive. He still has too much at stake in Louisiana (think his “non profit”) for him to just walk away. His ideal choice is someone within LDOE that he himself put in position of power. They owe him. They would continue to steer business his way via his “non profit.”

      I beg you, and other influential bloggers, Louisiana’s teachers, parents, ethical business owners, letter writers, news media, and anyone who cares enough, to not let up pressure demanding BESE get it right this time. There is much talent within Louisiana. Never forget what happened last time BESE decided someone from out of state could do it best.

      They did do it best – best at lining their own pockets, best at showing us unsophisticated, trusting Louisianians that they could steal from us right under our own noses, best at keeping Louisiana’s students at the bottom of the barrel, best at imposing national standards on our students (how did that work – still at the bottom of NAEP), best at lying about test score improvements. Best at doing the worst for our citizenry.

      Let’s take the lead from LSU sports. Look what happens when a genuine down-to-earth Louisianian gets to show what he can do.

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  1. Kira Orange-Jones Is Chairing La. BESE’s Superintendent Search | deutsch29

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