The Monroe News-Star has sued them and the Associated Press keeps pounding out the message that the Louisiana Department of Education has consistently refused to provide public records to the media—even after having first promised to do so.
But after a recent exchange of emails with DOE, LouisianaVoice has arrived at the conclusion that perhaps it is just as well that the media cease its quest for the information and that the department remain non-compliant with such requests. At least it cuts down on the confusion.
A reader recently sent us a Youtube link to a video presentation in which one Dave “Lefty” Lefkowith hyped the department’s computer Course Choice.
Course Choice is Superintendent of Education John White’s brainchild whereby a business, a college or an individual may offer computer courses to students at a fee set by the business, college or individual providing the courses.
But back to Lefty. Here is the link to his presentation, poor audio and all:
After viewing his stellar performance, we decided to check Lefty’s credentials.
Executive Speakers Bureau, a booking agency for public speakers, described Lefkowith as a resident of California whose speaking fee ranges from $10,000 to $15,000.
“Dave ‘Lefty’ Lefkowith is a dynamic hands-on change agent, successful as an executive, a corporate consultant, an entrepreneur and a speaker/trainer,” the speaker bureau’s bio profile said. “Dave provides leaders and organizations with the practical insights they need to be successful in the 21st Century.”
There was more, of course, but we had seen enough to wonder why, at a fee of $10,000 to $15,000, Lefty’s DEO Course Choice video sounded as if he were speaking from the bottom of an empty metal barrel.
So, naturally we made a public records request of the department as to how much Lefty charged Louisiana taxpayers to make such a poorly-produced video presentation.
The answer surprised us.
Lefty, it seems, charged the department absolutely nothing in the way of fees to make the promo. That’s because, explained DOE public information representative Barry Landry, ol’ Lefty is now a full time employee of the department.
That news flash, of course prompted yet another public records request:
• What is David “Lefty” Lefkowith’s official title?
• When was he hired by the Louisiana Department of Education?
• What is his official title?
• What are his qualifications for his position?
A few days later we received this response:
“Dave Lefkowith replaced Parker Baxter. Lefkowith’s title is Director, which was the same as Baxter. Lefkowith’s first day with the Department was July 20, 2012. Lefkowith’s salary is $145,999.88, comparable to Baxter’s salary of $140,000. Dave has three decades of experience bringing innovation into the workplace and Louisiana has tapped his proven skills to bring innovation into the classroom. He has worked with private sector companies and government agencies across the nation to harness the talent of professionals in diverse industries and develop creative solutions to improve results. He is regarded as an expert nationally in these areas, and the skills and experience he brings will be critical in effectively implementing a number of large, complex programs and activities aimed at benefiting Louisiana school children.”
Several things came to mind after reading this:
• First of all, director of what? Lefty is simply described as a “Director.”
• Second, does anyone actually understand what the DOE response said? From our reading, it’s what we like to call gooney-babble.
• Third, if Lefty is really as “dynamic” as his bio on the Executive Speakers Bureau web page says he is and at $10,000 to $15,000 a pop, it would appear that as few as 10 to 15 of those “dynamic, hands-on” presentations a year would match what the department is paying him. So, why would he give all that up and leave California to become a hired hand in Louisiana?
We also checked out his predecessor, Parker Baxter. Here is what his DOE bio said about him:
“Parker Baxter is the Executive Director of the Office of Parental Options at the Louisiana Department of Education. He previously served as Senior Legal Analyst at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, working as project manager for the District-Charter Collaboration Compact project. He is an education attorney, consultant, and author with over ten years of experience in the field. Previously, Parker served for three years as Director of Charter Schools for Denver Public Schools (DPS) where he was responsible for authorization, quality assurance, oversight, and performance management of the district’s portfolio of more than 30 charter and contract schools. Prior to joining DPS, Parker was an aide to Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where he worked on issues related to the No Child Left Behind Act and Head Start, and assisted in the formation and passage of the Higher Education Access Act. Parker has a Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law and a Masters in Public Management and Policy from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service where he was a Dean’s Scholar. He is also a former special education teacher, an alumnus of Teach for America, and an honors graduate of Colorado College.”
Okay, so Lefty replaced the director of Parental Options (whatever that is) but now is the Director of the Office of Portfolio (whatever that is), which includes Parental Options, according to Landry in his follow-up response.
So our initial request for public records resulted in the following terminology being made available to us:
• Office of Parental Options;
• Center on Reinventing Public Education;
• District Charter Collaboration Compact Project;
• Teach for America;
• Innovation in the classroom;
• Implementing a number of large complex programs;
• Harnessing the talent of professionals;
• Developing creative solutions to improve results.
All for a mere $144,999.88 a year. What a bargain.
And for all that, we get a “free” Youtube video of amateurish quality.
As the old adage goes, be careful what you ask for…