Walter Pierce

Jindal declines to intervene in Pastorek fracas

by Walter Pierce

With two major players in Louisiana public education calling for state Superintendent Paul Pastorek’s head, Gov. Bobby Jindal is refusing to stick his neck out for the embattled school chief, offering support for Pastorek’s reform agenda while declining to mediate a détente between Pastorek and the opposition: the Louisiana School Boards Association and the Louisiana Association of Educators, both of which called for Pastorek’s ouster in the last couple of weeks.

“The last thing our children need at this moment is a bitter feud between the superintendent of education and the organizations that represent teachers and school boards,” says Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan in a Monday press release issued by the LFT calling on the governor to bring the warring sides together. Pastorek serves at the pleasure of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, of which he is a former member, but Jindal is widely seen as having sway in matters of public education. Pastorek earned the ire of the school board union with his push to reform the way boards operate — a push that went down in flames in the spring legislative session.

Now, with the LSBA and the LAE seeking Pastorek’s resignation, the governor is content to watch from the sidelines. “We still support the superintendent. We support the reforms that he’s trying to bring about to improve education for our students. You’re beginning to see some of those results in our state with rising test scores,” Jindal tells Gannett capitol bureau reporter Mike Hasten, adding, “Look, I think it’s important for all the groups that are interested in education to come together and work together. It’s past time. We’ve got to put the personality issues behind us. Not everybody is going to agree on everything, and that’s OK.”

Pastorek, who refuses to give up his post, has expressed disappointment with the teacher- and school board unions’ opposition and even offered Friday to meet with the LSBA. The LSBA declined the offer. U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, according to The Daily Advertiser, told a group of Lafayette Parish educators he would be willing to speak with Pastorek about school board grievances. For now, however, the school chief and the unions have settled into a cold war.