BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White announced that he is stepping down from the post he has held for eight years.
“Over the last eight years, Louisiana has made great strides under Superintendent White’s leadership in carrying out the vision of the Board,” said Dr. Holly Boffy, BESE Vice President. “The development and implementation of Louisiana’s ESSA Plan has been a vibrant collaborative experience that inspires great teaching and encourages effective learning, while aiming for constant growth and development for all students. The Board thanks him for his support in spearheading this critical work and for his dedicated and tireless service to the families, students, and educators of our state.”
The announcement comes just two days after Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee announced on Jan. 6 that she would be resigning effective Jan. 31.
The news of both White and Gee comes ahead of the inauguration Governor John Bel Edwards’ second term. Edwards and numerous other state officials will be sworn on Jan. 13.
White, 44, has been in charge of the state’s public schools since 2012. His resignation will be effective as of March 11, 2020.
“In the coming days, BESE will convene a special meeting in Baton Rouge to discuss the process and timeframe for selecting his replacement,” states a press release. “The Board appoints the position of State Superintendent by a two-thirds vote of its total membership.”
The press release states that the date of the meeting will be announced within the week.
“Louisiana’s plan to prepare all students for success in college and careers is a strong one, and our Board looks forward to continuing the considerable recent progress that has been made regarding early childhood efforts.”
Officials noted that during White’s tenure, Louisiana’s high school graduation rate reached an all-time high of 81.4 percent. The rate of improvement is more than double the national average.
“John is a champion for innovation and positive change, and he provided that focus for Louisiana at a time when it was most needed,” said outgoing BESE President Dr. Gary Jones. “We will come to fully realize the impact of his work in future years. I thank him for his commitment and service, particularly in the area of early childhood development, where needed improvements have been made to the benefit of our state’s youngest learners and their families.”
January 8, 2020 Dear members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Eight years ago this week, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) bestowed on me the greatest blessing and privilege of my career, naming me state superintendent of education. I write today to advise you that, with great pride in all achieved over those eight years, I will be vacating the position March 11, 2020, and to recommend that the board identify a new state superintendent.
Our work together has been focused on causes critical not just to the future of schooling but also to the future wellbeing of our state and nation. We have developed a system of quality early childhood care and education in which our state is now making needed investments. We have restored a focus on curriculum and have supported teachers as practitioners of the curricula they use. We have situated teacher education where it belongs, in the classroom, under the tutelage of mentor educators. We have created pathways to good jobs and funded college education by revitalizing career and technical education and by making financial aid planning available to all high school graduates. Finally, we have developed plans for improvement in the hundreds of schools struggling to provide adequate education for the disadvantaged, from citywide interventions in New Orleans and Baton Rouge to plans for urgent change in remote and rural communities.
Louisiana is a better educated state today than any point in its history. The state’s eighth grade students improved in mathematics on the 2019 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) more than did students in any other state in the nation. Over the last decade, Louisiana’s improvements rank in the top ten among states on all four main NAEP tests. In 2018, a greater percentage of students than at any point in the state’s history graduated from high school. More students in that class than ever before graduated having earned a college credit or an industry credential; the number of Advanced Placement credits they earned nearly tripled the number earned in 2012. More graduates in 2018 than ever before entered community colleges or universities, and a greater percentage of graduates completed financial aid forms in Louisiana than in any state in the nation. Finally, more Louisiana graduates than ever before earned TOPS scholarships to ease the financial burden of a college degree.
Reflecting on these many years, I am struck first by the thousands of Louisiana parents, teachers, administrators, superintendents, board members, volunteers, and others who came together to make change possible. Their love for Louisiana’s young people is the greatest force for good in this state. I am next struck by the blessings that are Louisiana’s children. They are as smart and as capable as any children in this land. If our state’s struggle to provide many of them a quality education is in part a product of history and circumstance, it remains our responsibility as Louisianans to provide them homes, communities, and schools that nurture their gifts, in spite of history and circumstance. Finally, I am struck by memories of those individuals who at difficult moments demonstrated fortitude in the face of myopia and political self-interest. In this age of social division and of even occasional disdain for public service, I am deeply proud to have served alongside some of the most skilled and principled lawmakers, board members, and public servants in our nation.
Our state’s constitution bestows BESE with the power to sustain the progress achieved by these families and teachers, these children and adolescents, these public officials and public servants. Your leadership, and your selection of state superintendent, must continue our state’s march toward a fair and just education system, and toward a more perfect Louisiana.
I will assist as requested. In the meantime, I offer you my sincerest gratitude for the chance to serve.
As always, thank you for all you do for our children,
John C. White
Louisiana Association of Educators President Responds to John White’s Resignation from the Louisiana Department of Education:
While LAE members wish Mr. White the best in his future endeavors, we are happy about a change in leadership at the Louisiana Department of Education. I know many educators were not pleased with the initiatives pushed by Mr. White’s administration. His departure presents Louisiana’s education professionals with an opportunity to focus on positive change for our public school students.
All eyes are now on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and the Louisiana Senate, the groups charged with filling Mr. White’s position. The women and men who serve in these bodies must hire an individual with an extensive background in serving students in a K-12 public school system. LAE will be extremely vocal in this selection process.
This could be the beginning of a promising new period for public education in Louisiana. I, along with members of the LAE, look forward to forging a collaborative relationship with the incoming members of the state board of education (BESE) and their new leader. LAE members are committed to working alongside all key players in education as we continue to help move Louisiana’s public schools in a positive direction for our precious children.