FILE - Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White

Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White (center) speaks during a meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's Minimum Foundation Program task force on Feb. 28, 2019.

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education decided Wednesday that Superintendent of Education John White is making adequate progress toward reaching the goals set by the board.

The job performance discussion was held in executive session behind closed doors. Public bodies are allowed to discuss the professional competence of employees in private, under an exception to public meetings laws.

There was little discussion of the evaluation when board members returned to open session. Board President Gary Jones said White’s performance was deemed “satisfactory this year, as it has been in previous years,” which would indicate a score of about 3 out of a possible 4.

Much of the score is based on measures of student achievement. This year, the Department of Education reported an 81 percent graduation rate, an all-time high for Louisiana, along with increases in the number of students earning early college credit and career credentials and the number eligible for the state’s TOPS scholarship program.

White has been the state’s education superintendent since 2012. He has been working on a month-to-month contract since 2016 because his supporters and detractors have not been able to muster the eight votes (out of 11) needed to either extend his contract or fire him.

Both Gov. John Bel Edwards and former Gov. Bobby Jindal tried to remove White from his job, citing policy disagreements. While the governor appoints three BESE members, the other eight are elected from different regions of the state.

On Wednesday, White told the board that most of the issues stemming from a series of cyberattacks on various school districts around the state have been resolved. He said the impact varied from district to district, but noted serious breaches in Sabine and Tangipahoa parishes.  

“Their data systems have been disabled, in some cases for a matter of weeks, where they can’t access information that’s effectively being held hostage for ransom by cybercriminals,” he said.

White said systems are working with state officials to investigate the crimes and acquire new software to help fend off future attacks.

“Given that school systems are perceived as being well-resourced, that they’re perceived as being targets, we have to anticipate that this kind of thing will happen again,” he said.

Staff Writer

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.