Pastorek resignation offers the chance to get it right

> Commentary by The New Orleans Tribune

Before coming to New Orleans to lead the Recovery School District, John White was the deputy chancellor of talent, labor and

John White

innovation for the NYC school system. We’re still not sure what a deputy chancellor of talent, labor and innovation does. In fact, the title seems a bit contrived. And yes, we have questioned whether White is prepared to take on the task that lies before him. He worked in New York for about five years. Before that he was the Chicago director of Teacher for America. Before that he taught English. Still, for the sake of children and education, we certainly hope is ready, especially since the job is his.

Still, White has hardly had the opportunity to settle in as head of the RSD and he is already kicking up a stir with a plan to oust teachers based on a performance evaluation. That is one reason we pause at the news that Gov. Bobby Jindal backs him to replace State Superintendent Paul Pastorek, whose recent resignation seems hasty if not downright suspicious.

Luckily, White would need to get approval from the BESE in order to land such a promotion. And we are hopeful that BESE and the governor will see Pastorek’s surprising and abrupt departure for what it is—the opportunity to STOP, assess the current reform movement, and ensure that the needs and concerns of parents and students in the RSD are truly being met.

At The Tribune, we support efforts to provide quality educational opportunities for all of the city’s students. However, we are not convinced that the current direction of the RSD and its move to clutter the city’s educational landscape with privately-run charter schools is the way to go. With that, there are a number of issues regarding the RSD that ought to be considered before another state superintendent is named. From revisiting the laws that created the RSD and gives the state superintendent and the RSD superintendent their absolute powers to reviewing all RSD contracts with outside vendors to reconsidering the decision to set aside only a small portion of the seats in RSD schools for neighborhood students—there is plenty that ought to give state leaders pause before a new superintendent is chosen. RSD was designed to fix troubled schools and return them to their local governing bodies, not to orchestrate wholesale takeover of a school system, its budget and buildings, which is exactly what took place in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Paul Pastorek

Or at least that is what many were led to believe. We’ve since learned the truth. In fact, former Superintendent Paul Pastorek candidly told The Tribune just a few months ago that for him, local control never meant a return to OPSB.

And so while Pastorek’s departure was indeed hasty, it has provided the unexpected and welcomed opportunity to take the RSD in a different direction. Let’s not waste it.

The New Orleans Tribune is published monthly as one of Louisiana’s leading Black papers. The Tribune has a 145-year-old legacy of being dedicated to social justice and civil rights for all Louisiana citizens. Find The New Orleans Tribune at http://www.neworleanstribune.com.

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