John White Appointed Chief of Louisiana Schools

By Sean Cavanagh — January 11, 2012 2 min read
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John White, who has experience working in school districts in New York City, New Orleans, and Chicago, was selected Wednesday by Louisiana’s state board of education as the state’s superintendent of education.

The new schools chief was Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s pick for the job, and his supporters included U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

White moves into the state post after having led the Recovery School District, a state-run system created in 2003 to turn around low-performing schools, many of them in New Orleans. He was appointed by a 9-1 vote by the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

White worked on New York city schools Chancellor Joel Klein’s senior leadership team, serving as deputy chancellor of talent, labor, and innovation. During his time with the city, he worked closely with teachers’ unions, focused on developing technology to personalize student learning, and focused on turning around low-peforming schools, according to his bio. Previously, he was executive director of Teach for America’s Chicago division.

“Improving our educational system will require bold leadership and innovative ideas,” Jindal said in a statement, “such as empowering parents with more choices, rewarding highly effective teachers, and giving our schools the flexibility to pursue the most effective reforms for students in their communities. John is just the type of passionate, competent, and committed educator we need as superintendent to build on our record of reform.”

Duncan, a native Chicagoan, called White “a visionary leader who has done great things in New York City and New Orleans,” and said he was “confident he’ll do the same for the whole state of Louisiana.”

The Louisiana Association of Educators, a teachers’ union, had voiced objections to the appointment, saying state officials were overly focused on White and should have conducted a broader search for qualified candidates.

LAE President Joyce Haynes described White in a statement as “a very charismatic, kind-hearted and courteous fellow,” but said her organization’s concerns were ignored. She said she believed White would be asked to support an agenda championed by the governor that includes “more charters, the use of vouchers and [a] flawed value-added teacher evaluation model.”

“Educators, once again, have been disrespected by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education,” Haynes said, “since the board did not allow for a transparent, open selection process for those who could have met the qualifications to apply for the state education superintendent position. ... This is typical Louisiana ‘poli-tricks'—using our students as the reason for the rush in appointment, rather than doing the right thing.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.