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“Teacher at Heart” John White Now Sells Eureka Math

July 14, 2022

According to the July 14, 2022, PRNewswire, former Louisiana state superintendent John White is now the Chief Success Officer for Great Minds PBC, a subsidiary of the nonprofit, Great Minds, which produces the Common-Core-birthed curriculum, Eureka Math. White promoted Eureka Math in Louisiana during his tenure as state superintendent.

From the PRNewsWire press release, which also includes plans regarding Great Minds’ expansion:

RICHMOND, Va., July 14, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Great Minds PBC®, the developer of widely used, highly regarded PK-12 curricula, today announced that A-Street, an investment fund focused on seeding and scaling innovative student learning and achievement solutions, has invested $150 million into Great Minds, comprising $100 million of newly issued shares to accelerate expansion of the company’s offerings and $50 million to acquire a stake from the company’s majority stockholder, the nonprofit Great Minds organization. A-Street is now a minority stockholder of the company.

The investment will further spur the company’s growth and empower the public benefit corporation to expand its offerings and grow its investment in best-in-class digital experiences, which will be seamlessly embedded in the curricula. The company will also expand all of its existing instructional materials to be available through high school.

The company also announced former Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White has joined the company as Chief Success Officer. White, who previously served on the Great Minds PBC Board of Directors, has been recognized for helping improve student achievement and raise graduation rates in Louisiana, strengthening the state’s early childhood system, modernizing curriculum, and improving teacher preparation. He previously led the Louisiana Recovery School District, helping to transform New Orleans schools after Hurricane Katrina, and was Deputy Chancellor for the New York City Department of Education. A teacher at heart, White started his career teaching high school English in Jersey City, N.J.

Like other “teachers at heart,” White chose not to major in education and instead enlisted for a temporary classroom stint based on several weeks of crash-course training through Teach for America (TFA). According to his LinkedIn bio, White taught English in a New Jersey high school for only three years, from 1999-2002, and, as is characteristic of those with a heart for the K12 classroom, used his token stint as a stepping stone to become a TFA executive director on his way to being catapulted into high-level K12 administration followed by a smattering of education consultant and education business opportunities.

Teacher at heart.

PRNewsWire continues:

“Great Minds has grown exponentially over the last 15 years, from an organization advocating for high-quality, content-rich curricula to the leading creator of those resources. We plan to leverage this new investment and John White’s leadership to further innovate, broaden our reach, and put forward new resources that personalize and improve student learning, helping all children achieve the greatness of which they’re inherently capable,” said Lynne Munson, founder and CEO of Great Minds.

In his new role, White will shape and oversee how customers experience Great Minds’ products and services, including professional development, implementation support, and a transformational digital experience to maximize teacher and student success. He will also work with state and district leaders on the need for high-quality instructional materials for all students. White will begin his new role in September.

“Students in the U.S. have never faced challenges greater than exist today. Every child needs and deserves access to a high-quality curriculum and every teacher should be provided with the materials, training, and resources to help unlock the greatness in every child. Great Minds is working to make that a reality and I’m excited to join in their mission,” said White.

Great Minds PBC writes the knowledge-building materials Eureka Math2, Wit & Wisdom® (ELA), Geodes® books for emerging readers, and PhD Science®. The curricula have received top ratings through highly rigorous reviews in states like California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Texas, and by expert, independent curriculum reviewing organizations. Eureka Math is the most widely used elementary math curriculum in the country. The company reaches millions of students in all 50 states with its instructional materials and professional development and implementation services. The company has generated strong double-digit growth annually.

White is an education opportunist at heart. Prior to his exit as Louisiana state superintendent, White started a nonprofit, Propel America, with fellow TFA alum Paymon Rouhanifard, and while still Louisiana superintendent, contracted with two Louisiana districts to pilot his product and apparently blindsiding then-state board president, Gary Jones, with the decision. From the April 30, 2019, Advocate:

State Superintendent of Education John White has quietly become the co-founder and chairman of the board of a national nonprofit group [Propel America]….

Papers were filed with the Secretary of State’s Office in September [2018]….

But the undertaking is little known in Louisiana even while pilot projects are being launched in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

“If there is a time when I have to do exclusively business for one of the two nonprofits (White was also on the board of the Jeb-Bush-formed nonpeofit, Chiefs for Change), I would take a day off,” he said Tuesday. “But the mission for the work is completely critical to the children of Louisiana.” 

He said he did not publicize his role with the group because the pilot projects involving 50 students are not an operation of the state Department of Education.

Gary Jones, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said White’s role warrants attention.

“I am not sure that all BESE members are aware of it yet, but some of us have recently become aware,” Jones said. “I am sure at some point we will have a discussion about it.”

The 2018-19 school year was White’s last full school year as state superintendent. On January 08, 2020, White announced his resignation effective March 11, 2020.

Even as he touted his accomplishments, White, who was leaving mid-school-year, included no mention of a subsequent professional destination.

According to his LinkedIn bio, the Waltons picked up the tab for him, providing income for his as a Walton Family Foundation “fellow” from April 2020 to the present (July 2022).

Of course, White also had his own consulting firm, Watershed Advisors, which provides a place for a number of his former-La.-Dept.-of-Ed. cronies to land (or at least to provide indispensable resume decor to make the floundering professional seem busy climbing some ladder).

White also mentions being a member of the education advisory council to flagship in incompetence at a price, consulting firm, Alvarez and Marsal. Lots of background here. Alvarez and Marsal have their controversial fingerprints on Louisiana, New York, St. Louis, Montana, Rhode Island, and DC. Here’s a smidge:

Alvarez and Marsal in post-Katrina New Orleans (2006):

The relatively gargantuan salaries of many of the consultants who appeared to rule the new system was another factor in the public’s general unease. Functionaries of the accounting firm Alvarez & Marsal, for example, which will have taken more than $50 million out of its New Orleans public schools’ operation by year’s end, were earning in the multiple hundreds of thousands, billing at anywhere from $150 to more than $500 per hour. The firm’s contracts continued unchallenged, despite the fact that one of its chief assignments — the disposition of left-over NOPS (New Orleans Public Schools) real estate — was being handled without the services of a single architect, engineer, or construction expert. This omission cost the city a year of progress in determining how and where to rebuild broken schools, and endangered hundreds of millions of dollars in FEMA money. It only came to light when the two Pauls [Pastorek and Vallas] were forced to hire yet more consultants for real estate duty, and to bring in the National Guard to oversee the engineering operations.

And in New York (2007), with reference to St. Louis (2003) (Note that White was a deputy chancellor under Joel Klein in NY at the time):

When Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein hired the consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal, without competitive bidding, one provision of the $15.8 million contract called for “restructuring the Office of Pupil Transportation to obtain annual cost savings.” Simply put: drive down the cost of busing children to school.

For the firm, which specializes in rescuing bankrupt companies, it was a logical task. After all, Alvarez & Marsal had helped the St. Louis schools carry out a consolidation of bus routes in 2003 as part of a broad effort to overhaul the financially strained school system.

But as the plan in New York combusted this week, leaving shivering students waiting for buses in the cold and thousands of parents hollering about disrupted routines, the complaints threatened to morph into a renewed attack on Mr. Klein’s reliance on outside consultants.

“You can’t run the largest school system in the country strictly as a business,” said City Councilman David I. Weprin, a Queens Democrat. “They should be consulting their constituents before consulting their consultants.”

Consultants from Alvarez & Marsal are all over the upper reaches of the Education Department. One of the firm’s senior directors, Sam Mehta, has essentially served as the system’s chief financial officer for the better part of a year, billing $410 an hour. A managing director, Sajan George ($450 an hour), runs the consulting operation with the title of the chancellor’s chief adviser on restructuring. Another director, Scott Milam ($375 an hour), served as the chief restructuring officer for pupil transportation.

Under that roughly $5 million contract, awarded in 2003, Alvarez & Marsal spent 13 months running one of the nation’s most academically and financially crippled school systems. In a report, the firm described its work there as a “textbook turnaround,” resulting in $79 million in budget cuts and improved student performance.

But in St. Louis — which had about 40,000 students at the time, a fraction of New York’s nearly 1.1 million — some parents, politicians and school board members said things were not so simple. They said the firm erred by eliminating needed positions, and ignored the human cost behind decisions like closing 16 schools with little notice. Today, they point out, the St. Louis system remains near bankruptcy, and student performance is abysmal.

“I think they made things far worse,” said William Purdy, the St. Louis school board vice president. “There were many, many protests, and people were angry.”

In fact, one of the firm’s controversial moves involved eliminating bus stops, changing routes and enforcing a policy that only children living within a mile of school should receive yellow bus service.

Peter L. Downs, a St. Louis school board member, described the changes as a “disaster,” saying “assignments were made without regard to highways, bus routes were drawn without regard to one-way streets or streets that had been blocked off.”

Veronica C. O’Brien, the St. Louis school board president, said Alvarez & Marsal had made a noble effort but the district did not follow through. “They did their work and they left,” she said. “We dropped the ball.”

But she said the experience also underscored the risk of working with consultants. “I hope they’re just not going from city to city making a quick hit and then running out,” she said. “Because if that’s what they’re doing it’s not worth it. You’re going to end up just like us.”

Going from place to place, charging beefy fees, and making an exit is precisely what those who want to make fine money off of education do. That’s the beauty of it: Make the score and leave the problems behind.

When Montana Governor, Greg Gianforte, contracted with Alvarez and Marsal, Montana Democrats offered this timeline of Alvarez and Marsal “bilking public institutions,” including this from Rhode Island:

2020: Rhode Island hired Alvarez & Marsal to study Rhode Island College’s finances, on a no-bid $76,000/a week contract. The consulting firm was paid more than $334,000 to “produce a seven-page draft report that offered unsurprising findings including that enrollment has been declining for several years, graduate programs are costly, and the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for the college.” 

In DC, Alvarez and Marsal was hired to investigate cheating under then-chancellor (and former TFAer) Michelle Rhee, the March 08, 2012, Washington Post observes, “It is not known how much experience Alvarez and Marsal has in test security.” None. But that is how education opportunism works– just get the contract, charge the fees, offer something (or nothing, or chaos), then leave.

Education opportunism. And the findest of education opportunists, John White, is on this opportunistic business’ education advisory counsel. Perfect resume dressing.

Ahh, but “teacher at heart” White has found his place, in curriculum sales for Common-Core-associated Great Minds.

John White

__________________________________________

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4 Comments
  1. Robert Tellman permalink

    John White is the chief snake oil salesman for so many organizations I don’t know how he keeps it all straight (or how he keeps a straight face when professing the “it’s all about the kids” mantra).
    How people like him can look at themselves in the mirror each day and live with what they see is beyond my experience.
    I hope karma catches up with him before he steals more money and bright futures from our nation’s children.

  2. Ruth permalink

    Just thankful he left. Didn’t like him when he was here. The first time I ever got to meet him & introduce myself, I asked him did he have advice for school libraries. Hi answer was that we needed more technology. Since we had an online catalog for every school available for world to access, I knew he was typical, blowing smoke career, suck up politician, with answers for which he knew very little. In fact, at that point, our technology department had better available than the academic, school, & public libraries in which I had worked in LA, NY, & AR. I was no pushover for such BS, which I had outgrown @ LIU ( with a 4.0 GPA (my best), MSU, & LSU. Never saw him in a library. Students & parents hated the laborious math which disallowed the memorization learned by them previously & their parents. Home- schooling increased, private school attendance for those who could afford them became the norm, & charter schools became more competitive with public. We remained at or near bottom of test scores with other states- while English major White took over math world! Morning laughter from queen-ager!

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  1. Mercedes Schneider: John White, a “Teacher at Heart?” | Diane Ravitch's blog

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