The acting state superintendent of education said she has felt no pressure from the Jindal administration despite its clear preference for another educator to oversee public schools in Louisiana.
Ollie Tyler, who heads the state Department of Education, holds the job for now even though Gov. Bobby Jindal wants it run by John White, who is superintendent of the Recovery School District.
However, Jindal’s team has been unable to get enough votes on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to make White interim superintendent.
In an interview, Tyler said the impasse has not caused problems.
“Nobody from the governor’s office has expressed anything to me about it,” she said.
Tyler, former deputy superintendent of education, became acting superintendent when former Superintendent Paul Pastorek left the post on May 13.
“I have an obligation based on the statute, based on the law, to step in and act as acting superintendent and fulfill those obligations,” she said.
“I plan to fulfill those obligations, keep us moving with all our reform efforts, to make sure our children get educated,” Tyler said.
She sidestepped questions on whether she is interested in becoming interim or permanent superintendent.
BESE sets policies for an estimated 668,000 public school students statewide.
Jindal’s team needs eight of the panel’s 11 votes to make White interim superintendent.
However, four BESE members say they are opposed to White’s appointment, triggering predictions that Tyler would hold the job indefinitely.
Meanwhile, Jindal’s executive counsel, Stephen Waguespack, said recently that the Governor’s Office remains committed to White and plans to renew its push for him to get the job.
White is former deputy chancellor of the New York City school system.
Jindal has said he is just the kind of reform-minded educator that the state needs.
As RSD superintendent White oversees troubled public schools in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and elsewhere.
The governor names three BESE members and eight are elected from single-member districts.
Backers of White hoped he could land the job of interim superintendent quickly after Pastorek left.
However, the lack of votes on BESE prevented that.
Waguespack said on May 13 that the Governor’s Office was not backing off its support for White but that Tyler would serve as acting superintendent for now, which means she oversees day-to-day operations at the department.
Tyler met on Wednesday with a key aide to the governor.
But she said the gathering was a routine meeting on education issues.
Kristy Nichols, Jindal’s deputy chief of staff, said the meeting was held to discuss the progress of school reforms.
“She and I had not had a chance to sit down and talk until Wednesday,” Nichols said.
Penny Dastugue, who is president of BESE and a Jindal appointee, said she is not aware of anything Tyler has done to cause concern in the Jindal administration.
“I think Ollie is doing a good job,” Dastugue said. “I think she has taken her responsibility very seriously.”
But she said the governor’s team is “well within its rights” to meet with BESE members to convey their views on who should be superintendent.
BESE can only offer an interim superintendent a contract of less than six months because a new board takes office in January.