These days John White might be needing a hug. It appears all the ill-will and poor decisions making he has sown over the past year is coming home to roost on his doorstep, all at the same time.

Support the Louisiana Student Privacy Act

Recently we called out White for lying to everyone in the state of Louisiana over carelessly and needlessly exposing all of our school children to unnecessary risks by handing over their some of their most private data to companies hoping to make a profit off the information by direct marketing products to children, charging the state millions of dollars for the privilege of using their storage services, and by marketing and providing this information to unlimited third party vendors. I encourage the legislature to craft and pass the Louisiana Student Privacy Act, which will go further than FERPA (the Federal Student Privacy Act) and actually protect our children’s privacy instead of selling it out to anyone who asks.

Reject House Bill 650 – DOE reorg

White is trying to push through a bill that supporting the reorganization of the Louisiana Department of Education, about a year too late according to this DOE employee: (Link to testimony from April 11th)

Last week Beth Scioneaux indicated in House Education that the LDOE is going to lose another 34 positions. She didn’t say how many actual bodies were going to be lost but the numbers are getting pretty low with the exception of the TFA types. Erin Bendily lied through her teeth when she said that the department wasn’t working under the proposed reorg. White starting putting everything in place the moment he came in and had pretty much finished by early fall. He even had a draft of the org chart that he handed out to some staff around September early October. He also wants to make the Deputy Supt. position optional because his hand-picked second in command (Kunjan) couldn’t possibly be confirmed. He changed the title to Chief of Staff to get around it…

While Representative Chris Broadwater stated he has questions about how the reorg would work before he approves it (which already seems a little redundant since it doesn’t appear he cares what the answers are) well he might as well ask John White how the reorganization is already working out. White just needs rubber stamps, as BESE has learned. Unless you think White should be able to thumb his nose at the legislature and oversight, you should probably vote down House bill 650.

This information jives with everything I saw before I left. Erin actually sent an e-mail to us long before John White was confirmed, when he was still the Superintendent of RSD, instructing us not to make any decisions until Superintendent White was “officially” confirmed. I’m told he was making personnel decisions long before BESE voted to confirm him so it makes sense he would reorganize the department illegally and then ask for permission afterwards. White even drafts and then approves BESE agendas before BESE meets or reviews them.

Reject 2013 MFP

(don’t defund Special Education Programs, don’t use a DOE

known flawed VAM for funding calculations (SCR 23) )

John White has earned the ire of many advocates for Special Education Students of the disabled, gifted and talented varieties. Despite what he has claimed, this formula is not neutral, and actually reduces funding for some school districts even by DOE’s own reports they produced to try to dispute this fact based on the rosiest forecasts I’m sure they could come up with. The new MFP takes money away from talented programs, reduces gifted program funding, and reduces funding for disabled students who can’t exceed their value added scores by larger and larger amounts every year (which is statistically impossible).

 

Pass House Bill 160 – VAM delay and oversight

Because VAM or Value Added Modeling has been introduced into funding for school districts I would be remiss if I did not spend a little time explaining some of the flaws with this system that have come to my attention recently. If you don’t know what VAM is offhand, you are not alone. Even the Louisiana Department of Education, which uses VAM for everything from teacher evaluations, to school grades, to funding, to soybean substitute, has no idea how this system works according to this former employee.

Most of all, he [White] knows the Value Added Model, the all-important VAM, is broken. And he knows this because he broke it.

What was most interesting to read, however, was Johnny’s opposition to the ‘legislative oversight’ aspect to HB 160. He’s already allowing legislators (well, at least one northwestern one in particular) to dictate what the model does; why not let an entire committee or two have input? Is it because he knows that what he’s doing is wrong, if not illegal? Does he not want our elected BESE members to know that he bypassed them once again, by skipping policy and instead screwing with the math? Would he prefer that our esteemed, elected, representatives not be aware that he is playing around with citizens’ lives and careers because the governor tells him to ‘trust me, you gotta do this’? Perhaps he would not like the courts to know that he continues to flaunt the law by ignoring specific mandates that don’t suit him? He may be afraid that the public will learn that ‘Louisiana Make Believes’ data is being used to determine teachers’ futures, school takeovers and charters, voucher eligibility and the Course Choice crap, along with the future privatization of education. Or, maybe, it’s just that he’s concerned that everyone will finally discover that he’s nothing but White Lies.”

VAM was a flawed metric to use for all the things DOE tried to apply it to, but made more so by all the frenetic gyrations John White put the system through trying to please a select few. I strongly urge our legislators to reject the MFP formula put forth by BESE and ask that BESE restore the previous year’s formula that does not contain a tragically flawed VAM component. The folks that crafted the original VAM formula are gone, and John White almost exclusively hires TFA (Teach for America) folks that lack expertise in the areas he assigns them. Just this past week or so I learned that as many as 60 DOE personnel were given walking papers as part of a RIF, Reduction in Force plan. However I’ve also learned that John White already has new TFA recruits waiting in the wings to fill these spots he is “temporarily” eliminating – at much higher salaries and much fewer years of experience than much of the current staff he is releasing.

I’ve heard from several sources that John White is worried (freaked out) by some Freedom of Information requests that were made about VAM. Well there is a lot to be frightened of apparently:

It’s interesting to read that John White appears willing to hold off implementing Compass http://theadvocate.com/news/education/5756154-123/white-looks-at-teacher-evaluations (that new teacher evaluation system) for one year…just about exactly one year after educators around the state begged him to do exactly that. He knows the entire program is, in a nutshell, a clusterf**k. He knows the two data systems involved may not work together; one of them is not even completed. He knows his district support office (the one that was just approved…months after being created….http://theadvocate.com/home/4127328-125/la-superintendent-reorganizes-staff and after the guy running it for five months left. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/04/05/five-months-and-out-was-that-enough-time-for-doe-deputy-superintendent-to-obtain-louisiana-license-plates-for-his-car/) provides little to no support, while ‘toolboxing’ around the state in rental cars, collecting mileage and per diems. He knows that schools have been given precious few resources and little guidance, and no definite answers. He knows the ‘new and improved’ LouisianaBelieves website leads teachers on an endless loop of 404-file not found error messages, dead links, outdated or “coming soon” information.

In case some of you were not keeping up, John White scrapped the former department of education website in favor of what has been called a childish, useless crayon inspired endeavor that contains nothing useful except pictures of John White handing out big checks to school districts with his sleeves rolled up. As impressive as that sight is to the John White fan club, most of us are not members, and what he has done offends us.

When I was at DOE we used to website as an archive of useful information and reports which we could direct internal staff, school district personnel, parents and other stakeholders to.  Now the site is universally understood to be a useless mess.  I suppose in a way that makes sense. John White has a god complex and he’s crafted the new department website in his own image.

John White doesn’t want people keeping track of what’s going on, so he scrapped the old site but “we in the know” are doing our level best to keep you informed. White can’t continue to lie to us, sell our children, humiliate our teachers, defund our Special Education students, dazzle us with VAM BS, and ignore both the legislature and BESE. . .  unless you let him. I and my brave colleagues have done their part, now it’s time for some of you to do yours.

No matter what John White names his website, Louisiana doesn’t have to believe anymore.  Reject John White and his bankrupt policies and send him packing.  We deserve better.  Our children deserve better than having to put up with this.

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9 thoughts on “John White’s crumbling house of cards – From VAM to worse

  1. Putting 2 and 2 together, it appears those LDE folks you mentioned getting cut — it’s to fund vouchers if they are declared unconstitutional.

    Friend of mine from the LDE who left in 2003 worked for RSD for a couple of months and realized she wasn’t into those kinds of shenanigans. She said she didn’t get deep enough to know WHAT was going on, but could tell SOMETHING was. Similar to the charter school guy you met, she said the money that’s to go to the schools isn’t getting there. She was over-ruled on her hiring selections and TFAers with no experience with a particular type of work were hired. Her district is considering joining the coop of 30 or so other districts that are trying to block the course choice boondoggle by offering everything themselves. White commends the group in statewide conference calls, but has fed the “support network” the edict to discourage it.

    I have 2 employees who left the LDE to work for me here in Lafayette (Wendy you know, also Karen Sheppard who was in several departments but charters schools is the most interesting). They still get an occasional tidbit from the LDE — Anyway, story goes that Jindal’s goal is 90% charter schools in Orleans (got it already or close), Caddo, EBR and Jefferson. Part of the presidential program. Lafayette is getting hit with several companies interesting in charters here. The small charter operaters are getting pushed out by the Kipps and such. I guess the big orgs can make campaign contributions …

    I also have a colleague who was in federal programs at LDE (our fed prog director now). Might could work her for info.

    1. Not sure that’s enough money to fund vouchers by itself, but with the changes to MFP, skimming from charters and dedicated grants, plus the staffing cuts it’s probably enough as long as voucher particiaption stays modest.

      I’m trying to get some charter folks to come forward and blow the whistle, if not to me, to others willing to listen.

  2. Oh please…The LDOE has totally been reorganized without approval by the legislature-why do you think the new website doesn’t have any contact information except for John and the helpline? No one -including the LDOE staff- has a clue who to contact to answer questions. There isn’t even a phone list available of staff and their responsibilities. There are lots of new faces at LDOE at high salaries with no educational experience while, simultaneously as experienced people are escaping, their civil service positions are not being filled. If the goal was to make the LDOE dysfunctional, they have done a great job. to be kind, it could be that the leaders of the LDOE are just so inexperienced that they don’t have a clue of what should be done for the LDOE to be functional. But when Chaz, head of the Board, supports dissolving of the LDOE, it is hard to believe it is not intentional. Sadly, the lack of experienced leadership at LDOE is leading to an agency that is not serving its true purpose which is to support the districts and schools so they can educate our children. Those days are over as the focus of the LDOE is changing to figure out ways to get the $$$ from the public schools to the for-profit entities that are swooping in for those education dollars. If the USDOE doesn’t take a close look at where the federal $$$ are going- especially IDEA funds-shame on them. How else do they think all of these high salaries for the increased administration is being covered?

    1. Thanks for commenting Ignatius. I saw the writing on the wall immediately. White’s goal was to make us as inefficient an unnecessary as possible to prepare the department for privatization, except for the top executive staff he was going to bring in to manage expensive contractors while pulling down exhorbitant salaries. Everyone in the school districts I’ve spoken to thinks the department is a joke now, but not a funny one.

  3. Don’t know if you are familiar with G Bitch, but she has been doing a lot of blogging on educational issues since Katrina. Thought you’d be interested in this one. Catherine

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