From the Editorial Board:
As a quick follow-up to yesterday’s story on The Bayou Brief about Supt. John White (which, as we had anticipated, made some folks upset with us):
The allegation that he “falsified” documents in order to receive his Level Three certification rests on the assumption that he only has three- and not the requisite five- years of classroom teaching experience in his area of certification.
We made a very deliberate effort to keep the piece short and to the point, but perhaps we were too pithy.
We put this question directly to Sydni Dunn, Communications Director at the Louisiana Department of Education.
“As we discussed last week, Superintendent White has eight school years of classroom experience as a teacher and a teacher coach in New Jersey and Illinois,” she wrote via e-mail. “That’s in addition to more than a decade of administrative experience in New York and Louisiana.”
We can find no evidence contradicting this assertion, made on the record and which, if false, would allow for the state to remove his certification, per Section 909 of Bulletin 746.
The case against him is largely built on an interview he conducted in 2011 with the publication EducationNext, which refers to his three years as an English teacher at Dickinson High School in Jersey City, New Jersey and the assumption that he stopped teaching after Teach for America sent him to Illinois to lead recruitment and mentorship (hence the title “teacher coach”).
According to his office, however, he taught- in the public school classroom- for another five years, more than satisfying the requirement. Presumably, he was not teaching Calculus, though I know that some people will not be satisfied unless he discloses what he taught.
So we asked.
“During the years he served as a teacher coach and mentor, Superintendent White taught both English exclusively and English as part of a mix of subjects,” Dunn responded.
There you have it.
During the last two months, The Bayou Brief has looked into numerous public allegations suggesting that Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White fabricated his resume in order to inaccurately claim two different educational credentials during the 2015 election cycle. We have consulted with several education professionals, lawyers, citizen watchdogs, and Supt. White’s office. We have also reviewed numerous public records and applicable statutes. On Monday, The Bayou Brief exclusively obtained a copy of Supt. White’s PRAXIS examination results, which, until now, have never been published.
The case against White, first articulated by teacher and education blogger Mercedes Schneider, seemed compelling and credible. She alleges that the Superintendent was ineligible to receive a Level Three certification, the highest certification possible, due to gaps and discrepancies in his teaching record. Schneider and others, including blogger Ganey Arsement, have repeatedly made this allegation, pointing to a string of documents that they allege reveals White’s deceit and the complicity of sympathetic members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
In our judgment, none of these allegations are true, and they are based on a fundamental misapprehension of the law, a creative interpretation of the requisite qualifications for certification (in which only teaching experience in a public school is sufficient), and a misunderstanding about the ways in which states grant reciprocity to teachers certified elsewhere.
Although we admire Schneider’s work greatly, Supt. White is and always was qualified to take the examinations necessary for both the Level One and a Level Three credentials. We disagree with many of John White’s policy positions. However, we cannot find any logical justification as to why the 41-year-old Superintendent of Louisiana schools should not be allowed to take two tests from which BESE had previously exempted him. Like his predecessor, Paul Pastorek, BESE provided White with a waiver, which is their right. Similarly, had they wanted to, BESE could have instructed Supt. White to take a test, but that was not necessary.
When The Bayou Brief asked why Supt. White nevertheless took these examinations, his office replied, “Because he wanted to.”
That’s good enough for us.