Louisiana’s top education agency is undergoing a surge of high-level turnover amid its second reorganization in two years.
The list of those who have left or are about to leave includes Guillermo Ferreyra, one of the key hires from the 2010 reorganization; Donna Nola-Ganey, a veteran of more than three decades in the state Department of Education; and Joe Salter, who is leaving his post as director of governmental affairs effective Friday.
Ferreyra is paid about $160,000 per year.
Nola-Ganey, who was an assistant superintendent, was paid $127,572 per year and Salter $125,000 annually.
Others exiting include director of communications Rene Greer, who resigned earlier this month, and Amy Westbrook, deputy superintendent of the Recovery School District, whose departure is set for July 6.
Greer was paid $111,000 per year and Westbrook $157,000, according to the department.
Meanwhile, others are being hired, or put in revamped jobs, as part of a new series of department changes.
The recent turnover followed other key departures in December, including two officials who played major roles in setting up Louisiana’s new evaluations for public school teachers.
George Noell, who is considered the key architect of the reviews, had been on loan from the faculty of LSU and returned there as professor of psychology.
Rayne Martin, who helped craft and explain the new reviews, now heads the state branch of Stand for Children, which is an advocacy group aimed at ensuring quality education for children regardless of race or income.
Noell was paid $105,500 per year and Martin $140,000 per year.
State Superintendent of Education John White, said parts of the department are being revamped to carry out the state’s sweeping new plans to improve Louisiana’s public school system.
“The Legislature placed some demands on the organization,” White said. “We are going to adapt.”
White, who is paid $275,000 per year, said reasons vary for individual departures.
He said Nola-Ganey, who oversaw the Office of Federal Support Programs, retired.
White said the department’s contract with Ferreyra is ending.
Ferreyra, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at LSU, is a math professor who was hired to oversee the state’s push to improve student math and science scores.
Former state Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek made Ferreyra one of three key hires during his own reorganization two years ago that focused on literacy, science and technology and college and career readiness.
“This is a sea change,” Pastorek said at the time.
But Pastorek quit less than one year later.
Now White’s agency is embroiled in implementing an expanded voucher program, launching tougher teacher job performance rules and phasing in more rigorous classes for public schools students as part of a national push for common school standards.
A key part of that effort is the hiring of five “network leaders” to oversee the efforts of officials in 10 or so school districts each in setting up the new teacher reviews and tougher courses.
Warren Drake, superintendent of the Zachary school system, will have one of those jobs.
White said Drake will be paid about $150,000 per year.
The other four leaders, likely former superintendents and principals, are expected to be named in the next two weeks.
White said Drake and others will be measured by student achievement and surveys of district officials on how well they are supported by the state Department of Education.
Another official expected to play a lead role at the department is Erin Bendily, who is former education policy adviser to Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Bendily was one of the three chief hires in Pastorek’s 2010 reorganization.
She is deputy superintendent for the Office of Departmental Support and represented the department in legislative hearings this year on some of the key public school overhaul bills.
White said Bendily’s new role is still being developed.
Education job changes have become so common that White hired Bridget Devlin, policy advisor for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE.
Devlin will be director of policy for the department at a salary of $75,000 per year.
Penny Dastugue, president of BESE, good-naturedly nudged White about the hiring earlier this week when BESE members were told that Devlin is leaving BESE for the department.
Catherine Pozniak, executive director of BESE, is also quitting after just over a year on the job.
Pozniak, who is paid $115,000 per year, will work with New Schools for Baton Rouge, a nonprofit group that hopes to foster public/private partnerships to improve some public schools in north Baton Rouge.
Pozniak’s successor will be BESE’s fifth executive director since 2008.