In the late ‘60s psychologist Dr. Laurence J. Peter advanced what became known as the Peter Principle which said, in effect, that “In a hierarchically-structured administration, people tend to be promoted up to their level of incompetence.”
Put another way: “The cream rises until it sours.”
A good case in point, of course, would be Michael Brown, the notoriously inept head of FEMA, as evidence by his botched effort at coordinating recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Brown had previously served admirably as commissioner of judges for the International Arabian Horse Association but that job hardly prepared him for handling a job of the magnitude of major hurricane recovery efforts.
The same may be said of John White, who despite his abysmal record as Louisiana Superintendent of Education, may soon be promoted to yet a new level of incompetence.
Rumors have persisted for several days now that White would be leaving his post at the end of the current legislative session, which must adjourn by June 6.
Those rumors reached a new pitch on Wednesday with word that White would be headed “for Duncanland” in June.
For those unfamiliar with the Obama cabinet, “Duncanland” would be Washington where Arne Duncan serves as Secretary of Education.
Before joining the Obama administration, Duncan served as chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools whence controversial former Recovery School District Superintendent Paul Vallas came.
White succeeded Vallas as RSD superintendent before being elevated to his current post by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) at the behest of Gov. Bobby Jindal in January of 2012.
BESE President Chas Roemer, contacted about the report that White was headed for Washington, said he had not heard any such report.
In White’s case, the Peter Principle could be traced from White’s minimal classroom experience as a Teach for America alumnus as well as his having attended an academy to train school superintendents whose credentials are questionable at best. That academy, the Eli Broad Academy consists of all of six weekends of classes spread over 10 months.
In recent weeks, White’s tenure has been marred by repeated courtroom setbacks over the funding formula for school vouchers, public records litigation, rejection by the legislature of BESE’s Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) formula for funding public education, and most recently, word of apparent efforts by course providers to fraudulently enroll more than 1100 students in Course Choice online classes that were to be paid for by the state from MFP funds.
It was the use of the MFP funds for that purpose that was ruled unconstitutional by the Louisiana Supreme Court.
BESE member Lottie Beebe of Breaux Bridge, a vocal opponent of both White and Roemer, said she had not heard the latest report though she acknowledged previous rumors of White’s departure.
“He is building a home in Baton Rouge,” she said by email. “If this proves true, he is acknowledging defeat. He will bail before he is fired!”
An email to White went unanswered.
Increasingly, it would appear that the cream may have risen and has now soured.