State Superintendent of Education John White announced his executive staff Thursday and said that, even with the six-figure salaries, department costs have dropped and the agency has fewer employees.
“These are not additional positions,” White told reporters.
The salaries on the superintendent’s team range from $110,000 per year to $225,000 annually.
Some of the 15 officials have been announced previously, including five “network leaders” who will oversee the efforts of 10 or so school districts each in setting up new teacher evaluations and tougher courses.
White, who is paid $275,000 per year, said department spending has been trimmed by nearly 11 percent amid state revenue problems and that payroll has been reduced by about 50 positions.
Department officials also said that the department’s ranks have dropped from 659 from mid-2008 to 446 for the current financial year, a 32 percent drop.
Critics have questioned some of the salaries, especially since state aid to public schools has been generally frozen for four consecutive years.
“We are going to do a better job with fewer resources,” White said. “We have created a leaner, more efficient organization.”
The mostly new lineup comes at a time of sweeping changes in public schools, especially because of new policies pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal and approved by the Legislature earlier this year.
About 60,000 public school teachers will undergo new evaluations this year, and those who fail to meet state standards can lose their jobs in a few years.
Nearly 5,000 former public school students are using state vouchers to attend private and parochial schools.
In addition, the state is preparing to make classes more rigorous — it is called the common core curriculum — to improve student performance and make state-to-state comparisons easier.
White said that, under the department’s old setup, state officials in charge of literacy, science and technology, innovation, college and career readiness and other areas were all dealing with individual schools and school districts.
“I heard a lot of different voices telling me to do different things,” said White, former superintendent of the state-run Recovery School District.
Under the new plan, he said, the five network leaders will be the key conduit between local officials and the state Department of Education.
White’s executive staff, their title and salary consists of:
- Erin Bendily, assistant superintendent for policy and external affairs, $140,005 per year.
- Ken Bradford, assistant superintendent for content, $110,000.
- Hannah Dietsch, assistant superintendent overseeing teacher evaluations and other areas, $130,000.
- Patrick Dobard, RSD superintendent, $225,000.
- Warren Drake, network leader, $160,000 per year.
- Joan E. Hunt, executive counsel, $125,000.
- Gary Jones, policy liaison with local superintendents, $145,000.
- Kerry Laster, network leader, $155,000.
- Dave Lefkowith, assistant superintendent overseeing vouchers, charter schools and other areas. $145,000.
- Stephen Osborn, assistant superintendent for student programs, $125,000.
- Mike Rounds, deputy superintendent for district support, $170,000.
- Beth Scioneaux, deputy superintendent of finance, $132,830.
- Gayle Sloan, network leader, $160,000.
- Melissa Stilley, network leader, $135,000.
- Francis Touchet, network leader, $130,000.