Now, we know that it seems like the focus of Block The Agenda is honed in on Calcasieu Parish. We want to reiterate that our mission is to educate ALL of the citizens of Louisiana on the issues of education reform and expose it, wherever possible. It just so happens that Calcasieu is a hotbed of deceit, corruption and manipulation. It is easy to see that by the inbox messages we receive.
The focus of our blog, today, is the qualifications and certifications of a school, or district, superintendent. The job of superintendent is one that we would venture to say only a small percentage of career educators aspire to one day hold. It is, after all, a long journey through the ranks of a school system to achieve that. It takes years to gain the knowledge and experience to be able to efficiently run a school district. You have to be familiar with teaching methodology and theory in order to explain it to a concerned parent who doesn’t like a teacher’s approach. You have to know what it is like to work in the classroom and manage your time in order to have compassion when adding requirements to a teacher’s daily responsibility. You have to recognize what is right and what is wrong with new state and federal policy and be willing to speak up and fight for your district and your teachers. Well, maybe not. All of that has changed under a blanket of deceit.
Fact #1: Louisiana has 70 public school districts.
Fact #2: Calcasieu is the only public school district whose superintendent doesn’t hold a teaching certificate and has no teaching credentials, whatsoever.
Do these facts shock you? Truth be told, in our time researching education reform, there has been very little that has shocked us simply because the complexity of the ed reform agenda is such that by the time you realize what has happened, you soon discover that the barriers intended to prevent it from happening were already removed. Let us try to explain that better.
The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, also known as BESE, is not a lawmaking body. Its purpose is to make policy that is derived from the laws passed by the legislature and to disseminate it to the local school district and oversee their efforts to comply with the policy. BESE maintains two policy guides that are revered as the bibles of public education. The first, Bulletin 741, is the Louisiana Handbook for School Administrators; the other, Bulletin 746, is the Louisiana Standards for State Certification of Personnel. Below, you will see screenshots of these two publications; however, if you would like to see the actual publications, you can download with the following links. (741 and 746)
On January 11, 2012, BESE called a special meeting to consider Gov. Jindal’s appointee to the position of State Superintendent of Education, John White. It was Item #4 on the agenda. The newly elected BESE members had not even attended their first regular meeting, yet.
Several concerned citizens spoke in opposition to the approval of Mr. White. District 3 BESE member, Lottie Beebe, offered a motion to conduct a nationwide search for a qualified superintendent. The motion didn’t even receive a second. They immediately moved on to Item #4, and the following motion was made by Chas Roemer and seconded by John Bennett.
This was necessary in order to appoint Mr. White because BESE policy requires that a State Superintendent meet the same requirements as a district, or school, superintendent. It would seem that with only two years of teaching experience and no teacher certification, Mr. White met none of the requirements.
How does this apply to Calcasieu parish, you ask? Well, it doesn’t, directly, but it is intended to illustrate a method of circumventing policy; however, you must remember that BESE sets the policy for the State and has the authority to waive its own policy. Legal, though probably not ethical. A local school district; however, does not have the authority to change or waive BESE policy.
On February 19th, 2014, the Superintendent Search Committee for the Calcasieu Parish School Board met to discuss the qualifications for superintendent and to outline the procedure for the search. The following item was presented on the agenda. Click on the picture to download the entire document and scroll to page ten.
Board member, Clara Duhon, clearly had a problem with what was being proposed. She felt strongly that some sort of “education” requirement should be included. After much discussion going back and forth over the use of the words “central office,” Mr. James Schooler offered a motion to accept the following qualifications.
Per Bulletin 746, Sections 709 and 747:
a. Type A Certificate or Level 3 Certificate
b. Out of State Certificate, Section 725 or
Per Bulletin 741, Section 505:
a. A minimum of ten (10) years of “central office” administrative experience in a school system, a history of supervisory responsibility regarding significant aspects of school operations or curriculum, and a history of experience in supervision of personnel.
The motion was seconded by Bill Jongbloed and passed by a 7 to 4 vote. The groundwork was laid for the future superintendent of Calcasieu parish schools, who also happened to be in attendance at the meeting.
The search, interview and elimination process was not lengthy, at all, by most standards. From March through the next few months, applicants were reviewed and narrowed down. Some were even interview via teleconferencing in order to avoid costly travel. By the middle of June, the applicants had been narrowed down to four possible candidates; Dr. Marcus Jackson, a career educator with a long history of inspiring “at risk” students; Dr. Ina Delahoussaye, a career educator currently working as a departmental director within the Calcasieu school system; Dr. Charles Michel, a career educator currently serving as director of special education in Lafourche parish; and finally, Mr. Karl Bruchhaus, certified CPA and current Chief Financial Officer of Calcasieu Parish. And there you have it. The groundwork was laid for Calcasieu parish to have the first and only non-certified, inexperienced superintendent. On June 14, 2014, the board selected Karl Bruchhaus as it’s new superintendent.
If you look at how things were conducted, it all seems pretty legit. The problem we have with all of it? If you used the links we provided to read the sections that were referenced in the Search Committee meeting regarding the qualifications, you will find that they don’t exist. The qualifications for superintendent were grossly misrepresented by the item on the agenda. In fact, the actual sections read as follows.
These policies are pretty straight forward. There is no room for misinterpretation. The certification of Educational Leader Level 3 is required to be superintendent. A district may choose to select a superintendent who doesn’t meet the requirements, by meeting the criteria that is outlined, but this does not mean in total absence of the requirements. It is only intended to be temporary and in the absence of one or two requirements. No where does it outline permission to create your own qualifications. Now, I know you are probably thinking these policy publications get changed and updated all the time. We thought so, too. In fact, for the last five days, or so, we searched through all of the BESE minutes and agendas, and there doesn’t seem to be any mention of altering these requirements, at any time. The publications that we have provided were updated in July 2015. We welcome anyone who can provide a copy of the most recent publications just prior to February 2014 so that we can compare any differences. We doubt there will be any. It is unlikely that in this current climate of ed reform a change would be made from letting any Joe Blow in the street become a superintendent to the current strict requirements. We feel strongly that the Calcasieu Parish School Board duped its constituents.
The people of Calcasieu parish should be outraged by this. This was a blatant act of deceit and manipulation intended to provide a pathway for the Chamber of Commerce to insert someone to take over the school system. If you don’t believe us, scroll through the remainder of the minutes from the search committee and read their plan to have the Chamber lead the search. This needs to be fix. Now!