Edwards education board appointees noncommittal on Superintendent White

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NEW ORLEANS — New members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education take office Tuesday, but it remains unclear what types of changes may be in store for Louisiana schools.

Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards, who takes office Monday, said during the campaign that he wants to replace Education Superintendent John White. But it appears there are too few votes on the 11-member board to replace White. Several White supporters were elected to the board in the fall.

The governor chooses three members of the board. Edwards’ new appointees have been non-committal on the question.

Edwards’ spokesman Richard Carbo said Friday the governor-elect and the superintendent had a meeting a few weeks ago, but no decisions were made about White’s future.

“It was a cordial meeting. The governor and the superintendent obviously don’t see eye to eye on some issues, and this was just an opportunity for the two of them to sit down and meet,” Carbo said.

“The governor’s position is still the same,” Carbo said. “But the meeting was just an opportunity for them to have a conversation.”

Carbo said Edwards will have announcements about what he’d like to see happen with the superintendent’s job “at a later date.”

White appears to have the support of a majority of BESE as a result of the recent elections.

That would likely preclude him being fired.

It takes a two-thirds majority to hire a new superintendent and it’s unclear if the eight votes are there to hire someone else. But White, whose current contract is expiring, can continue to serve until a replacement is named.

“I’m going to be completely open as I begin to attend meetings,” said Doris Voitier, superintendent of St. Bernard Parish Schools and a new Edwards appointee to BESE.

Edwards, a Democrat, was backed by teacher unions and has been critical of White and other education policies favored by outgoing Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, including state-paid tuition vouchers for some private school students from low-and moderate-income families. However, Edwards also said during the campaign that he would seek consensus.

One of Edwards’ new appointees is a supporter of vouchers. “It’s proven to be an outstanding program,” said Thomas Roque, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Alexandria.

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