Education Superintendent John White’s ‘somewhat peculiar’ absence noticed at State Capitol after years of higher profile _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White

State Superintendent of Education John White reiterated his hope Wednesday that he keeps his job when a new governor and new state school board take office in January.

White also said he is eager to work with the next school panel even if there are major differences in views.

“I feel like I have invested a ton here,” he said. “I have a great affection for this place.”

The superintendent made his comments in response to questions during a nearly hourlong meeting with the editorial board of The Advocate.

He made similar statements in an interview in June, calling his post “the greatest job I have ever had.”

White serves at the pleasure of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and all eight elected seats will be on the Oct. 24 primary ballot.

The next governor names three other BESE members, which means the majority pro-White panel may undergo major changes by January.

A group that wants White replaced — it is called Flip BESE — is backing contenders in all eight races.

However, the superintendent said the current panel is not as united as it is sometimes portrayed.

He said he has worked well with BESE members who have sharply differing views from his on Common Core and other topics, including Jane Smith, of Bossier City, and Mary Harris, of Shreveport.

Naming a superintendent requires the support of eight of 11 members.

Asked what happens if there were anti-White forces on the board but they were unable to muster the eight votes needed to replace him, White said the new governor would need to get involved.

“It is really important to seek detente with anyone in the Governor’s Mansion,” he said.

White, who moved to Louisiana after serving as deputy chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, has been state superintendent of education since 2012. He is paid $275,000 per year.

BESE sets policies for about 720,000 public school students statewide.

White was pushed for the post by Gov. Bobby Jindal, but the two have since had a falling out over Common Core, which White backs and Jindal opposes.

One of the four top candidates for governor, Democrat John Bel Edwards, of Amite, has said he would want White replaced if he wins.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie, has made comments that suggest he would be leery of White keeping his post.

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, a Baton Rouge Republican, and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, who lives in Breaux Bridge, have been tight-lipped on the issue.

Backers contend White has played a key role in promoting long-overdue public school changes.

Critics say his support of vouchers, public school letter grades and tougher teacher evaluations has undermined Louisiana’s public school system.

White, who grew up in the Washington, D.C., area, said another appeal of the job is his view that the state’s needs “are greater than I could have imagined.”

He said education and other challenges in the 9th Ward of New Orleans and parts of Plank Road in Baton Rouge are different than anything he saw in New York City.

“I would like to be a part of changing that,” he said.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/