Teachers floored with state superintendent's spending

Published: Sep. 26, 2012 at 9:26 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2012 at 9:41 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
Deidre Finn
Deidre Finn

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Some teachers are fuming over a hire made by the Louisiana Superintendent of Education.

John White is paying a woman from Florida a six figure salary to manage communications for the department.

Superintendent White said he has reduced his number of staff and is spending money where it counts. He said communication plays a major role in the success of the state voucher program.

"The number one thing our system needs right now is the great work of teachers and parents and they need to be communicated with to get the information that they need," White said.

But it comes at a cost.

White has a press secretary, Barry Landry, to handle media and public requests. Landry said he makes $70,000 a year.

In addition, White recently hired a communications manager at $12,000 a month, to help promote his plan to improve public schools. Deidre Finn, a woman from Florida got the job. She is working under a four month contract, which ends in November. Her job is to work with schools and lawmakers on education initiatives.

The former communications director, Rene Greer was paid $110,000 a year, or just over $9,100 a month.

McKinley High School English teacher, Destiny Cooper, who said teachers have not gotten a raise in four years, is floored.

"That's a lot of money that could be, over the course of the year, three new teachers salaries, a computer lab, minimum for my classroom," Cooper said.

The Department of Education salaries in Louisiana are higher than several other states.

The Arkansas State Department of Education's communication director, who also serves as a press secretary to the superintendent, makes between $73,000 and $91,000 a year.

In Mississippi, the one person doing the same two jobs makes between $70,000 and $120,000 a year depending on experience.

Superintendent White maintains he is spending his department's money wisely.

"Our people are crying out for more communication. We're going to help them get the information. We're going to do it in a cost effective way because we slimmed 15% of staff and cut our budget," White explained.

But Cooper thinks White has an ulterior motive.

"We know why PR firms exist, and people hire them to clean up messes. I think it's unnecessary, a waste of money and is essentially to hide something. What is it? Tell me," Cooper said.

In 2011, the State Department of Education spent around $411,000 on communications salaries. This year's figure dropped to about $290,000.

In addition, the new communication director will not receive any benefits on top of her salary. That is typical of contract employees.

Copyright 2012 WAFB. All rights reserved.