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Teacher-blogger-author Mercedes Schneider has written several posts contending that State Superintendent John White lacked the necessary qualifications for his job. The law requires five years of teaching experience, but Schneider uncovered documents showing that White had not taught for five years.
Attorney Amy Lafont of Louisiana posted the following comment on the blog last night:
“For my friends interested in public education and accountability:
“After a detailed examination of the claims made by the Bayou Brief (BB) in their attempt to discredit and diminish the Louisiana state superintendent’s licensure issue and Dr. Mercedes Schneider, I have determined that their assertions are without legal or factual bases.
“For the public record, I was in no way solicited by anyone to get involved in this discussion. As an attorney I felt obliged to step in, where I saw an attempted political hit masquerading as legal analysis. Something is not legal analysis just because someone says it is, any more than White’s teaching experience existed just because he says it did. I am familiar with both the Bayou Brief and Dr. Schneider as a regular reader and as long-term colleagues in advocacy. I read the BB’s initial post with interest, to see what they could contribute, fact-wise, to answering the questions Dr. Schneider and others have raised.
“I was disappointed by the lack of facts and disparaging tone of the BB post, so I asked the “Editorial Board” to provide the factual and legal bases for each of their conclusions. They responded with a great deal of flippant attitude, shifting reasoning, and hubris. Instead of addressing my questions in a forthcoming manner, they ultimately deleted my comments and blocked me from further posting on their facebook site.
“The substance of BB’s post challenging Schneider’s (and a great many others’) conclusions was stated as follows:
“In our judgment, none of these allegations are true, and they are based on a (i) fundamental misapprehension of the law, (iii) a creative interpretation of the requisite qualifications for certification (in which only teaching experience in a public school is sufficient), and (iii) a misunderstanding about the ways in which states grant reciprocity to teachers certified elsewhere.” (numeration added.)
“Over a series of facebook comments, I attempted to draw out of BB their rationale behind each of the three conclusions above. After much back and forth, I am satisfied that there is no credible evidence in the possession of The Bayou Brief that undermines Dr. Schneider’s conclusions.
“BB: “(i) fundamental misapprehension of the law”
“BB has not shown how the law is misapprehended. When asked piece by piece which sections of law they felt were misapprehended, only one hypothetical was given. This comment by BB hypothesized that something like after-school SAT tutoring would have qualified as “years of teaching experience in an area of certification.” They argued that the language of the requirement was so vague as to permit interpretation that way, without offering any legal justification or support whatsoever for that interpretation, except that ‘the courts would defer to BESE.’ Perhaps the BB misunderstands how our three branches of government work in check and balance of each other. BB should readily state where their interpretation is supported in existing law.
If BB wants to publish an article stating that Dr. Schneider fundamentally misapprehends the law, they should be able to say precisely how. Instead, she has cited the section precisely:
§ 708. Educational Leader Certificate Level 3 (EDL 3) [Formerly §709]
A. This certificate is required in order to serve as a school system superintendent or assistant superintendent.
b. five years of teaching experience in his/her area of certification;
“BB now asserts that the language above means other than its plain meaning, and that it should be interpreted to include such things as after-school SAT tutoring, without providing any justification for that interpretation. And yet they assert that we are wrong to understand it to mean full-time classroom teaching, again, without citation or explanation. This argument fails.
“BB: “(ii) a creative interpretation of the requisite qualifications for certification (in which only teaching experience in a public school is sufficient)”
“Here BB argues that the issue with the certification requirements pertains to the question of public/private. After being challenged, BB asserted that the misunderstanding was that “one does not need successive, public school experience in order to obtain the certification.” This is a diversionary or simply incorrect argument. Dr. Schneider did not say that there were two years of experience that did not qualify because John White taught either non-successively or at a non-public school. She said the years never existed.
“Among other materials, she posted Mr. White’s Louisiana leadership certification applications, which include an employment verification letter on TFA letterhead, which states:
“John was employed by Teach For America from July 1st of 2002 through February 4th of 2007. During that time he held the title of Executive Director of our Chicago Region. He earned a yearly salary of $126,499.92.”
“The Bayou Brief parrots White’s assertion that this same period of employment should somehow also qualify him for two years towards his “five years teaching experience in an area of certification,” because his spokesperson says so. Like White, the BB declines to provide any documentation whatsoever in support of their demand that we give these terms other than their plain meanings.
“They never disproved Dr. Schneider’s assertion, nor did they ever demonstrate how Dr. Schneider was factually or legally incorrect in her interpretation of the qualifications for the challenged leadership certifications.
“BB: “(iii) a misunderstanding about the ways in which states grant reciprocity to teachers certified elsewhere.”
“This statement implies that the Bayou Brief believes that John White was in compliance with reciprocity rules.
“However, deutch22.com demonstrated in detail, through communications with relevant Illinois professionals and related licensure materials, that John White could not have taught in an area of certification in Illinois without formally converting his NJ certificate to IL. Bayou Brief does not claim that White secured an IL certificate. They claim that the rules do not require that the certificate be issued from the same state wherein the teaching occurred. This indicates a misunderstanding on the part of Bayou Brief, not Dr. Schneider. Dr. Schneider set the processes and requirements forth correctly.
“Further, and egregiously, Bayou Brief cannot show that John White ever even sought reciprocity, or had an Illinois teaching certification at the time he was supposed to be earning his “years of experience teaching in an area of certification” in Chicago.
Inter alia, Bayou Brief argued that White’s “Certification didn’t expire”, “He has been certified in English since at least 1999”, and that he would have been able to teach in an area of certification in Illinois with an un-transferred New Jersey certificate. These claims were disputed and unresolved.
“Over the course of our discussion, Bayou Brief ultimately claimed that John White taught in an area of certification (English) in Chicago Public Schools, without being an employee of CPS, and without Illinois certification.
“None of the Bayou Brief’s “legal arguments” survived basic scrutiny. For every three or four paragraphs of response by one of their board members, only one paragraph contained actual legal argument, and these were sloppy, lazy, and incorrect. The remainder of the verbiage was hot air and hand waving.
“Of the posts that purported to offer a substantive rationale, it was stated clearly that that person, Clayman Clevenger, a board member and private attorney, was commenting only in his personal capacity, but he adopted and defended the BB claims. The members of the “Editorial Board” did not answer the specific questions raised by their ‘exclusive/editorial,’ nor would they disclose the membership of the board. The Bayou Brief has previously lauded the hire of Ms. Katie Weaver as bringing serious bona fides to the paper, however, she declined to respond to this issue. In a private message, a board member told me that she is merely their spelling and grammar secretary.
“After ample opportunity to provide solid facts and argument in support of their conclusions, the Bayou Brief stands disproven on the record. Their story completely unraveled.
“Finally, the Bayou Brief’s repeated refusals to support their claims with facts, their repeated diversionary and straw-man arguments, and their repeated changes in rationales tend to show a pretext in motive for publishing the piece.
“I call upon the Bayou Brief to retract its story and issue a prompt apology to Dr. Mercedes Schneider.”