State Superintendent of Education John White is about to undergo his first formal evaluation after seven months of sweeping changes in public schools.
White, who is expected to get a favorable report from the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, is Gov. Bobby Jindal’s hand-picked choice to recommend and carry out policies that affect about 700,000 public school students.
The board’s Administration and Finance Committee is set to consider White’s job review during an 11 a.m. meeting Tuesday.
The full board is scheduled to consider the issue on Aug. 15.
BESE President Penny Dastugue said she thinks most of the 11-member panel is pleased with the superintendent’s job performance.
White, who is paid $275,000 per year, was hired by BESE in January on a 9-1 vote with one abstention.
However, even with solid marks from BESE, he is expected to skip a 6 percent annual pay raise spelled out in the contract, which would be $16,500.
Under pressure, White told the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget in January that he would skip the pay increase if rank-and-file state employees failed to get one of their own during the 2012 legislative session.
No such raise was approved amid tight state finances.
Asked if White would voluntarily make his evaluation public Barry Landry, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, referred the issue to Catherine Pozniak, who is executive director of BESE.
Pozniak said White’s contract says that the review is to remain confidential.
White arrived just ahead of Jindal’s legislative push for an overhaul of public education.
The revamp included a statewide expansion of vouchers for some students attending C, D and F schools and a law that will make it harder for teachers to earn and retain a form of job protection called tenure.
He has played a lead role in implementing some of those changes since the session ended on June 4, including accountability rules for the 119 private and parochial schools that accept voucher students.
The superintendent, who appeared before multiple legislative committees on key school bills, handled himself well on a variety of highly-charged topics, said Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana.
“I think he came across as very knowledgeable but also very unflappable,” Erwin said.
Walter Lee of Mansfield, the longest serving member of BESE, said he is generally pleased with White’s performance.
“I am not in total agreement with some of the reform activities,” Lee said.
“But I think he handles himself and relates to people very well,” he added.
Lottie Beebe, the lone “no” vote on White’s selection, called the superintendent an effective communicator and complimented his willingness to appear before educators in town hall settings to discuss his agenda.
“I am not convinced that Mr. White is concerned about transforming traditional schools,” Beebe said in an email response to questions.
State Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, who opposed many of the school initiatives backed by Jindal and White, said the superintendent is merely fulfilling the wishes of the Jindal administration.
“He is following orders; he is following the plan that is put forth,” Smith said.
Smith also repeated her view that BESE’s evaluation of White needs more public scrutiny, which she said local superintendents routinely face. Smith is a former member of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board.
Former Superintendent Paul Pastorek declined to make public his evaluation and said his predecessor, the late Cecil Picard, had a similar confidentiality clause in his contract.