Monday, July 23, 2012

The New Superintendent of Schools for New Orleans

 I found some interesting articles/interviews with some of the panelists. Here's one with John White:

A 35-year-old former teacher, John White headed to New Orleans in late April to become superintendent of the Big Easy's Recovery School District (RSD), quite an accomplishment for such a young man. But, with his bags barely unpacked, he found himself nominated by Governor Bobby Jindal to be interim chief of all of Louisiana's public schools (thanks to the sudden resignation of Paul Pastorek, who had recruited White), in addition to running RSD. Newspapers claimed that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was calling members of the state's school board, praising White as "an extraordinary leader [who is] committed to reform and is a great asset to the state." Is your head spinning?

John White's wasn't. He told the press that he was flattered by Jindal's offer, that he had come to the Bayou State to run the New Orleans schools, but if they wanted him in Baton Rouge, he'd be glad to help out. Cool. Calm. Collected.

"I've got more gray hair than I should at my age," he says, smiling, during our interview in a first-floor chancellor's conference room at New York City's education department headquarters just a few days before he left for New Orleans. Tall, boyish, soft-spoken, White is cordial, even gracious, but never flip. When I ask if we should wave to the mayor, whose "bull pen" office windows were visible from where we sat, he responds that such proximity to the mayor is "a beacon for accountability and the priority that this mayor has placed on public education." Accountability is a word White frequently used during our talk.

Where did this rising education star come from? The short answer is Teach For America (TFA). He is one of a growing list of wunderkind school leaders produced by this moon shot idea of Princeton University student Wendy Kopp (20 years ago) to put smart college grads in the nation's worst schools.


The New Superintendent of Schools for New Orleans

A conversation with John White

By Peter Meyer

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Fall 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 4

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