By MELINDA DESLATTE
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s statewide public school board began its search for a new education superintendent Thursday shortly after members took their oath of office for their new four-year term.
A headhunter firm could be in place before the end of the month.
The state’s long-time education leader, John White, announced last week that he’s leaving in mid-March.
The 11-member Board of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed Thursday to form a four-member panel that will nominate candidates for superintendent, recommend minimum qualifications and outline a process for decision-making.
The search panel’s work will be discussed at the board’s regular monthly meeting, set for Jan. 28-29.
Louisiana’s education superintendent oversees and sets policies governing more than 700,000 public school students across the state. White has been in the position since 2012.
White’s been a strong proponent of charter schools, helped create a taxpayer-financed voucher program that sends students to private schools and oversaw a revamp of accountability and school grading efforts. During his tenure, Louisiana’s high school graduation rates have improved, along with student performance on other national metrics and tests.
But the state remains behind the national average in education rankings.
White’s resignation is effective March 11.
The superintendent often was at odds with Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat allied with teacher unions and traditional public school leaders that objected to the expansion of charter schools, the voucher program and some accountability measures championed by White.
On his monthly radio show Wednesday, Edwards said White’s exit “gives us an opportunity to really look at public education in the state of Louisiana (and) make some decisions about what we want it to look like going forward.”
But the governor’s influence in the decision-making can extend only so far.
The education board hires the superintendent, and Edwards only has three appointments to that board. The remaining eight elected members were backed by business organizations that regularly clash with the unions and that supported many of White’s priorities as superintendent.
Edwards said he’ll be talking to board members, seeking a “champion for education” in the superintendent’s job.
As for White’s exit, Edwards thanked him for his service, but acknowledged: “I did not shed a tear.”