Tom Aswell: Superintendent John White’s Top Employees Aren’t Registered To Vote In Louisiana

Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White’s Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, Deputy Superintendent, and Director of the Office of Portfolio are not Louisiana voters. 

Reposted with permission from LouisianaVoice.com.

Gov. Bobby Jindal was adamant during his campaign for governor about stemming the outflow of Louisiana’s brightest college graduates from the state.

To show his commitment to keeping Louisiana talent at home, he promptly brought in several out-of-staters to fill key roles. Most prominent among those was Paul Vallas of Chicago by way of Philadelphia to head up the Recovery School District (RSD) and then as Vallas’s successor, John White of New York.

Jindal subsequently shoved Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek aside in order to promote White to head up the Department of Education (DOE).

So much for that rosy bit of political rhetoric from Jindal.

Now White himself has brought in a host of non-residents whose job it is to decide how nearly 700,000 public school students in Louisiana will be taught, what they will be taught, where they will be taught, when they will be taught and even who will teach them.

And LouisianaVoice has learned that five of those, including his Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, a Deputy Superintendent, and one who, alternately, has been called “Deputy Superintendent,” “Director,” and “Director of the Office of Portfolio, are not even registered to vote in Louisiana.

A fifth, Hua T. Liang of New Orleans, is an administrator with the Pride College Preparatory Academy in New Orleans, a former charter taken over by RSD. His salary is $110,000 a year.

Chief of Staff Kunjan Narechania, she of the email to White informing him that Charlotte Danielson of the Danielson Group of Princeton, N.J., was “being a pain again” over DOE’s decision to use only five of 22 components of Danielson’s teacher evaluation system, came to DOE from Chicago but has neither registered to vote here nor has she registered her vehicle, which still carries Illinois plates, in Louisiana, thus depriving the state of vehicle registration fees.

Her qualifications for serving as Chief of Staff to the Louisiana Superintendent of Education at a salary of $145,000 include a stint as Vice President of Design, Teacher Support and Development for Teach for America (TFA), the billion-dollar organization bent on taking over public education nationwide and staffing the nation’s schools with teachers with only five weeks’ summer training.

But, hey! That’s a strong recommendation; John White, after all, came from TFA.

Likewise, Deputy Chief of Staff Nicholas Bolt ($104,000), an alumnus of Education Pioneers, came from the New York City Department of Education and resides here now, helping to determine the fate of the state’s education system but, like Narechania, has neither registered to vote nor removed his out-of-state tags in favor of a Louisiana plate.

Then there is Michael Rounds, the Deputy Superintendent who is being paid a cool $170,000 a year. Like his boss, John White, Rounds is a 2010 alumnus of the Eli Broad Superintendents Academy which critics say turns out superintendents who use corporate-management techniques to consolidate power, weaken teachers’ job protections, cut parents out of the decision-making process and introduce unproven reform measures.

The academy, founded by billionaire businessman Eli Broad, offers a six-weekend (not week, weekend) course spread over 10 months. There are no qualifications that students have any experience in education—just that they have a bachelor’s degree.

Rounds resigned his Kansas City position a year ago following an investigation by a local television station into bid irregularities involving a $32 million renovation project for Kansas City schools—only to turn up as one of the top officials charged with day-to-day decisions impacting our school children. And he doesn’t even vote here.

But Rounds’ prior employment record pales in comparison to the career track our old friend David “Lefty” Lefkowith of Los Angeles.

No one knows precisely what Lefkowith’s actual title is, but he is paid well for whatever it is he does. He is listed as a Director, but also has been identified as a self-proclaimed Deputy Superintendent and Director of the Office of Portfolio. One of his primary responsibilities is to push DOE’s Course Choice program but he has cut a wide swath through the upper tier of political power in the state of Florida.

Working with the now defunct Enron Corp. several years ago, he attempted, along with an associate of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, to corner the water marketing rights in the state. Following that, he became a motivational speaker through his company, The Canyon Group.

He went straight from a $35,000 contract with DOE to his new status as employee.

But Lefkowith is not only a non-voter in Louisiana; he doesn’t even choose to live here.

Unlike Deirdre Finn, a former deputy chief of staff for Jeb Bush, who works as public relations hack for the department—but from her home in Tallahassee, Florida—at $12,000 per month, Lefkowith does work in Baton Rouge but resides in Los Angeles and commutes back and forth, making some wonder how he affords to do that because, even at his $146,000 salary, commuting each weekend to and from Los Angeles by air is a far cry from the short interstate drive from Gonzales or Denham Springs or U.S. 61 from St. Francisville.

But except for Lefkowith, one still might expect the others to at least register to vote here.

That doesn’t seem to be asking too much.