LDOE hires former Jeb Bush staffer to head PR dept.
Deirdre Finn, the state Department of Education’s new communications director, is working “full-time” to revamp the LDOE website and oversee media relations for a state agency that’s been hammered in the press over the past few months following the passage of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform legislation. The same full-time PR director, a one-time deputy chief of staff under former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush who’s raking in $12,000 a month at her new job, admittedly “divides her duties” between the Bayou State and Florida.
The Advocate reports Finn is under a four-month contract with DOE that started July 23 and ends Nov. 30, though it can be extended for up to three years if both sides agree. Her job duties include redesigning the agency’s website and working with lawmakers, educators, parents and students to “communicate” (read spin) DOE’s new education initiatives.
She replaces former DOE communications director Rene Greer, who left in June for reasons that were not made public. But a June 14 blog by Tom Aswell of Louisiana Voice cites an unnamed DOE employee speculating that Greer’s departure could have been tied to her response to IND Monthly’s records battle with the department in May over DOE’s federal No Child Left Behind waiver application:
Greer, who served at the pleasure of the education superintendent, may have fallen on her sword. “She worked very hard and put up with a lot of internal and external flak,” said one former co-worker. “If I had to guess, I suspect the department’s slow response to (a public records) request from The Independent (a Lafayette weekly publication) may have had something to do with her departure,” the co-worker said.
The Advocate also reports that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is looking to hire its own communications specialist, a rare and potentially unprecedented move for BESE:
What that official will be paid is unclear.
Heather Cope, who starts her job as BESE’s new executive director later this month, is doing the hiring.
Both moves come at a time of sweeping changes in public schools, including expanded access to vouchers for some students to attend private and parochial schools; tougher teacher evaluations; and major changes in how courses are delivered to public school students.
But Louisiana House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, said Wednesday that the hiring and planned hiring of public relations employees warrants scrutiny by his committee, especially amid tight state finances.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me,” Fannin said.
“If they have those extra dollars, they may have more money than they need in their budget,” he added.
MAY 21 Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos writes about the Mother's Day shooting, and how the stages of shock and blame and healing mirror those traveled by the same city following Hurricane Katrina. The city will recover, just as it did following the storm, by reaching out to help the people injured most seriously by the event, DuBos writes. It's how we heal, he says.
MAY 21 Here's a post on the Advocate (but buried on a subpage, not on the front) that reports something Louisiana Voice reported some time ago: a top DOE official lives in Los Angeles and "commutes" to Baton Rouge. The positioning of the story caused a stir on Facebook Monday, with several posters asking if the Advocate was covering someone's hiney. Sentell's stories on DOE are notoriously soft, and this one is no different: don't expect any hard questions in here.
MAY 21 Here's another post from blogger Tom Aswell about the "course choice" program. He's already reported on kids being signed up without their consent or knowledge, and has more here: For example, he tells of a six-year-old who was signed up for high school Latin. He also digs a little deeper into the sister companies of the main one operating in Louisiana; all of them seem to have complaints against them. Stinky.
MAY 21 Given the 80 percent cut in higher ed funding since he's been in office, it's clear Gov. Jindal would rather give tax cuts to out of state companies than have a functioning system, blogger Dayne Sherman argues in this post. The cuts have been such a disaster, Sherman says, that it will take 30 years to fix what's been broken. He says he believes the aim is to shut down most of the schools before Jindal leaves in 2016.
MAY 21 Blogger CB Forgotston says there are too many elections in Louisiana, and they're costing us too much money. The proof is in the pudding: turnout for most of these nonsensical pollings gets worse and worse, CB opines, even as millions of dollars that could be spent on health care or higher ed go down the tubes. The legislature must take action to stem the tide of pointless elections, he says.
MAY 21 Here's an interesting investigative piece by WVUE on the retirement benefits of some Jefferson Parish public employees. According to the story, the taxpayers are paying 100 percent of the retirement contributions of employees who started work prior to a certain date in April 1986 -- and have done for more than 30 years. It costs the parish millions annually, and might not be legal, the story reports.
MAY 21 This post on Bayou Buzz provides insight from Louisiana's intrepid pollster, Bernie Pinsonat, on the winners and losers from this year's legislative session. But to hear Bernie tell it, there's almost nuttin but losers: Jindal, the Republican party, the Fiscal Hawks all get big goose eggs in his win column.
MAY 20 This post on The Lens takes a look at a huge (either $500K or $250K) bill that one NOLA charter now has for school lunches. The RSD says the charter group didn't fill out the proper paperwork for federal reimbursement, but the story details how the RSD didn't ensure the people running the charter had the proper training, despite requests from hapless charter employees trying to fill out forms. Either way, somebody's asleep at the wheel.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.