After a nearly four-hour closed door meeting, state Superintendent of Education John White won a positive job review Wednesday from Louisiana's top school board.
Also, White's contract will remain a month-to-month agreement despite earlier talk that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education would discuss the contract publicly. No public debate took place on the issue, which has sparked arguments in education circles off and on for months, and which always heats up during job evaluation.
White said afterwards he was generally pleased with the review.
The superintendent said his score was 3.0 out of 4. That means he is considered effective/proficient, which is the second highest level on the state measuring stick also used to rate public school teachers.
Last year his score was 3.166 out of 4.
White said later on Twitter that strengths on his evaluation included literacy gains; improvements on a test of college readiness called ACT and progress on the high school graduation rate. He said a "significant weakness" on the review was academic progress by English learners, a criticism raised previously.
Last year BESE spent 38 minutes behind closed doors before giving White a positive review.
This time the agenda included discussion of personnel matters relating to the superintendent, which was seen as a way for BESE members to air issues surrounding his contract.
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White, who is paid $275,000 per year, has been on a monthly contract for the past 18 months because the state board has been unable to agree on a new one. But much of the private gathering focused on details of this year's evaluation and plans for the 2018 review, according to those in the meeting.
After the closed meeting, BESE President Gary Jones told the small audience that White got a satisfactory rating.
Jones said later, "The board members were very frank and free in their changes. No animosity from any of the parties involved. It was an honest discussion of the issues at hand."
Asked if he is content with White's contract Jones said, "I am content that that is the reality of the situation at the moment."
BESE approved White's evaluation without dissent.
Earlier BESE member Kathy Edmonston, who lives in Gonzales, said she wanted the board to vote on White's contract.
Edmonston said Wednesday night the discussion confirmed that BESE was on solid legal ground in using a monthly contract.
She said the issue needed addressing.
Edmonston has said that, while she works well with the superintendent, her BESE constituents do not back him.
White has also clashed with Gov. John Bel Edwards on a wide range of public school issues. However, even with the governor's three appointees on BESE the superintendent generally enjoys the support of 7 of BESE's 11 members.
White is generally aligned with advocates of major changes in public education, including charter schools and vouchers.
The governor is usually on the side of traditional public school groups, including the Louisiana School Boards Association, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators.
Edwards' office did not respond to a request for comment.
White has gotten favorable reviews in his four previous job assessments by BESE.
He has been superintendent since 2012.
BESE sets policies for about 700,000 public school students statewide, and White is in charge of carrying out those policies.
Critics contend the superintendent should face a new round of confirmation hearings in the state Senate since a new board took office in 2016.
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