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

January 20, 2020

On January 17, 2020, Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) president, Sandy Holloway, appointed the four BESE members who will form the work group that is supposed to offer full BESE names of candidates for Louisiana’s next state superintendent. (Click here for the press release.)

This superintendent work group will both screen and nominate, and it will also devise a process for selection, which it is to present to BESE at the board’s meeting on January 28-29, 2020.

Teach for America (TFA) executive director, Kira Orange-Jones, is the work group chair.

Other members include James Garvey, Ronnie Morris, and Doris Voitier.

Garvey, a lawyer, is an avid White supporter. Morris, an operations manager for Exxon, was recently elected, and Voitier, St. Bernard Parish superintendent, is in her second term as one of Governor Edwards’ three BESE appointees.

So, basically, from the time of their formal appointment, these four individuals have ten days to screen and select candidates and to develop a process for selecting the next superintendent, which requires a supermajority vote from BESE (8 out of 11 members).

(NOTE 01-28-20: It seems that the ten days is to report on the process, not to actually complete that process.)

In BESE’s January 16, 2020, special meeting, Garvey appeared to favor retaining a search firm for locating candidates.

In his 2015 criticism of John White, Governor Edwards noted that White lack credentials “to even be a middle school principal” and said that Louisiana has qualified candidates for superintendent and that there was “no need to go looking in New York City for our next head of K-12 education.”

Edwards was also concerned about the “controversy and accusations of wrongdoing” that have become a hallmark of White’s time at the head of the Louisiana Department of Education.

White tendered his resignation January 08, 2020, and will exit March 11, 2020.

Whether the 2020 BESE will look in or out of state, and the degree to which prior experience, including having a grounded career in K12 education, will matter to a committee in which only one of the four members (Voitier) has a decades-long career in K12 public education, remains to be seen.

In the past, the governor has nominated the superintendent to serve during the governor’s term. In 2016, Edwards did not have the opportunity; seven BESE members wanted White to remain, but eight votes were needed, so BESE simply never brought the issue to vote and kept White as a month-to-month employee.

However, it seems that White’s departure and the governor’s agreement to allow BESE to form a work group to nominate the next superintendent is the result of behind-the-scenes negotiations to move forward with Louisiana’s having a new superintendent (that is, Edwards’ ridding Louisiana of White) while allowing BESE to complete a search, nomination, and voting on White’s successor (as opposed to having Edwards directly appoint that individual).

The question remains regarding just how much of an ed-reform bent the candidates selected (particularly) by the likes of Orange-Jones and Garvey will possess. What I continue to believe is that whoever follows White as superintendent will not likely rival White’s deceit.

I am glad that Voitier is on this committee. I believe her presence contributes to the likelihood of some candidate possessing the governor’s preference for a Louisiana native with an established K12 education career. I am also not ready to dismiss the idea that the governor is contributing to this process via his representative (Voitier). The reason I bekieve this is that BESE had the votes to defy the governor and keep White, yet he is leaving nonetheless. Some negotiation happened to effect White’s exit, and it is only logical that the negotiation includes the governor’s input to some degree regarding White’s successor.

I seriously hope Louisiana is not saddled with another TFAer. I am happy to write that I don’t see this as a certainty.

We will know soon of the nominees process. January 28th is only days away.

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Kira Orange-Jones

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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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3 Comments
  1. Lance Hill permalink

    I predict a list comprised of (1) great candidates who lack qualifications and (2) corporate puppets that have sterling experience. That way appear to be forced to choose a John White clone. Governor Edwards to reject this trick.

  2. Linda permalink

    Theocracy in plain sight.
    Drew Brees appeared in a video, “Bring Your Bible to School Day” (Washington Post, 9-16-2019).
    In 2018, he was thanked for his generosity to a charter school in an article reported by Greater New Orleans Collaborative of Charter Schools. BTW- the Massachusetts Catholic Conference site posted its religion-based opposition to public schools.

    Today, Huffpo reported that media have made legal requests to view e-mails that allegedly show New Orleans Saints’ execs used an NFL.com e-mail account to help the New Orleans Catholic diocese strategize to contain fall out from the sex abuse scandal.

    IMO, the values of the NFL owners were on display in the Kaepernick situation and, the alleged situation in New Orleans, as described by Huffpo, makes me fear for a secular nation.

  3. Linda permalink

    How many of the scheduled meetings will Jones attend?

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