Will the real Dr. White please stand up?

Dateline: Wed 26 Jan 2011

The Eugene White who ran Washington Township schools, and earlier, was a deputy superintendent at Indianapolis Public Schools, as well as a teacher, coach and administrator in Fort Wayne, who grew up poor as dirt in the deep South and trimuphed over personal adversity, is not the Dr. White we read about in the Star this morning.

Like a child throwing a fit, the esteemed educator threatened to quit his job if he did not get his way on a plan to reassign 24 administrators, including his son. The latter would receive a raise of $13,000, moving from a salary of $78 k to $92,000 under his dad's recommendation. Reginald White, now a behavior dean at Tech High School, would move up the ladder to assistant principal at his father's direction.

The issue is less about nepotism (and big salaries) and more about the incredible response from the superintendent, as reported by Scott Elliott in the Indianapolis Star.

"You are not going to badger me into changing what I know we have to do," White is quoted as saying to his board, which voted 4-3 against his plans. "I have given you all the information you need."

Then, he threatened to re-negotiate his contract if he does not get his way.

"If you are prepared to pay me what you owe me, you won't have this recommendation," he said, adding, "I have no changes to make."

This seeming arrogance is a far cry from the Dr. White we knew at North Central High School, where he was principal for two years starting in 1990. He was self-effacing, responsive, humorous and, ultimately, I thought, concerned first and foremost about his pupils. He was perhaps most "famous" for threatening to halt graduation ceremonies when adult audience members became too raucous at the mention of "their" kid's name; he had zero tolerance for such acting out.

So what gives? How does the man who refused to entertain drama now place himself on center stage, above, it seems, everyone else?

I fear he has lost his way -- corrupted by power and money, perhaps, and co-opted by the status-quo that always seems to prevail within IPS, no matter how many dedicated and selfless teachers, board members, leaders and parents try to turn or resist the tidal wave. It's no secret that IPS is top-heavy with highly-paid, longterm administrators, a view certainly not original here; it's a perfect example of a system that is running in place, while at the same time resisting change.

The latter now includes the reform movement brewing in the Statehouse, where Gov. Mitch Daniels and others are vowing to shake up public education, from the ground up.

Perhaps that's really what is eating Dr. White -- fear of the future. Maybe his issues are less about IPS and more about education reform in general.

At any rate, his behavior is doing little to endear those who, in the past, saw beyond the rhetoric and dollar signs, and supported his vision.

Based on this morning's story, he seems to be losing ground, as well as touch with political and economic reality.

Here's Scott Elliott's story:

http://www.indystar.com/article/20110126/LOCAL18/101260319/IPS-chief-threatens-quit-board-rejects-plan?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|IndyStar.com|s

Comments

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Like a child throwing a fit, the esteemed educator threatened to quit his job if he did not get his way....

Well, that's the point, isn't it? White is no longer an "esteemed educator"!

May the school board come up with the requisite backbone to resist this tantrum and do what's best for the children of IPS!

2011-01-26 13:32:02

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

This is not new behavior, Ruthie. Not at all. Remember when he felt compelled to defend all of public education, to the Star Editorial Board, back in 2005...and he called Mitch a liar? Mitch and his cronies had just lit a match under public schools--they were on videotape ridiculing public education. I saw it.

Andy Gammill was sitting in the room. Dr. White was given multiple chances to withdraw his comment against a North Central graduate-now-governor.

He declined. The comment stood. The shit hit the fan. Phones rang. The school board had to reign him in.

Childish rants are his stock-in-trade. He's gone to the well once too often.

Sadly, IPS is nearly overtaken by state mandate. I have no hope for Dr. Bennett--he, too, was a Superintendent of a local school system, and not a very good one at that.

They drink this strange water, those Superintendents. They breathe rarified air. Few, including Dr. White, understand budgets. They'll say they do, but they don't.

Yep, he was a good high school principal. Strict.

He's alternately charming and threatening.

Some mgiht call that a bully.

He is not setting a good example for students. In the end, that's the most-important job he's got.

And bully for Annie Roof and Mrs. White (no relation) and two other board members who stoped being lapdogs. It's about damned time.

Probably too late tho.

2011-01-26 14:17:30

hendy [Member] said:

Nah, superintendents never have strong egos.

Take a look at one, Richard Lugar, who then became mayor and then senator.

Eugene White did wonders for North Central. He tells it like he believes it is, no punches pulled, no BS, and he usually backs up his agenda with facts.

Not that he's a very good politician. But you see, the mayors and other politicians don't have a lot of say regarding schools as it's NOT their jurisdiction, as the libraries are also exempt from mayors in this state.

It's a good damn thing, too.

Does that excuse divisive behavior? It's difficult for me to tell. My children and step children are all products of WashTwp Schools, largely under Dr White's regime. They've turned out admirably. Taking on the ills of the IPS may be a no-win situation, but don't be so sure that he won't take it to the wall.

Then we'll have lost another capable administrator, like we lost Zendejas..... etc. It's going to be a no-win again. Sad it's come to this, but entirely predicable.

And TTT, he's not a bully. Strong will doesn't mean being a bully. He's entirely a gentleman, although he doesn't suffer fools very well at all.... and in his position, with good reason.

2011-01-26 20:05:56

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Hendy, he cna be a bully. I have been right there, watching, sometimes very, very closely involved. He's divisive if you don't agree. And there is no doubt about that--the history is strong. In fact, he's conspiratorial--he lines up folks in a very political fashion. He quickly pulls out the "micromanagement" card on any board member who dares question whether the Emperor is wearing any clothes. When he's good, he's very, very good. But you must agree with everything he does. No dissent. Anytime Anywhere. Ever.

My kids graduated from N Central, too. They got a good education because of a world-class faculty. EW peaked at principal.

Anyone who begs for an editorial board meeting to call one of your own alumni, the governor, a "liar," is picking a fight.

He may have been the best hope for IPS. But the nepotism, when questioned, became an ultimatum.

His mouth may have written a check his ass can't cash. A faulty choice of battles to fight, at best.

At worst, a childish, boorish temper tantrum. He's bullied the school board for years, and it worked. By my count, Mr. Brown was the latest flip. And that says a mouthful, because Mr. Brown has been a complete unadulterated lap dog.

Is this how we influence and instruct kids? Call our governor a liar, then hire your son, move him up quickly, and berate anyone who questions your priorities? Really?

Lord help us.

Back up the Mayflower van. It's time.



2011-01-26 20:32:41

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

I think TTT pretty accurately summed it up.

Some people get better with age, while others...

2011-01-27 15:39:23

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

The promise and the mission were so large. I hoped....

2011-01-27 20:25:50

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Some clarifying info received last night:

Reggie White, the "behavior dean" at Tech, would become an assistant principal. The contract year is longer, and even if he stayed at the Dean salary, he'd make more money because his contract is longer.

But I think he gets a raise, too.

Depending on the school district, some "deans" are still covered by teacher contracts, and not consdiered pure "administrator." Assistant principals are administrators. I'm not sure if they're required to have an admin license/certificate.

Reggie White is a gentleman--a large man, soft-spoken, but he certainly commands respect. He was a great teacher. It's sad his career advancement was put on page one...he was purring along nicely at North Central, then Pike, as a girls' basketball coach and teacher. His dad was Super when Reggie was hired at NC. He made the conscious decision to move back into a situation where his dad was Superintendent.

As in: we ultimately make our own bed, don't we?

Nobody wins in this situation. Public ultimatums delivered by strong personalities rarely end well: reference Patton.

If only Dr. White could rewind last Tuesday's meeting and edit his gaffe. He has tough work to do, and he is uniquely qualified to do most of it.

If only he didn't have to win every single argument, every single line-item. He takes no prisoners, and kids suffer as a result.

I doubt the specific personnel reassignment debated last Tuesday, was agreed-upon by the board in advance...or if so, Dr. White chose to go public with his disagreement. His currency these days doesn't cashflow like it used to. Dr. Johnson's memo, and multiple other recent issues, have diminished his cache. Think back to the taping incident last year, when his mouthpiece demanded that folks leave a meeting. The lengths to which we go, to please our bosses....

At some point--and folks miss this a lot, but it's true--the leadership style of a Superintendent permeates the system. Folks try to please him/her, and all kinds of mixed agendas get in the way of the primary mission: kids.

One way or the other, this will not end well. The human schrapnel will be significant.

2011-01-28 09:12:05

ruthholl [Member] said:

TTT has the inside track here. That's been verified by another source, who knows IPS at an intimate level, too.
Good reporting. Thank you all for amplifying and commenting.
Myself, I had lost track of the history of Dr. White -- some of the histrionics.
I agree, this will not end well....
Star has a pretty good editorial this morning, too.

2011-01-28 11:16:20

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

The editorial is fine, but...where the hell has Tully been for five years? This is not new behavior. Andy Gammill is an ace reporter, but he was caught under Dr. White's spell.

I love the "highs" Dr. White can inspire. He's a pied-piper in some respects.

I just can't take any more of the lows. It's that simple. Or, to again quote Col. Potter, when he told fellow MASH surgeon Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester (the whiner):

"We need surgeons here badly. We need triage and we need help. But the whining is Biblical in nature. And at some point, I just have to say, 'you're just not worth it. Go!'"

Then Radar started mumbling about some forms that needed filed.
God I miss that show.

2011-01-28 12:54:29

ruthholl [Member] said:

That's wonderful, funny and to the point.

2011-01-29 11:42:52

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Col. Potter was a gem.

2011-01-29 15:32:06

citizen x [Member] said:

Ruth:

Please check out this Star puff piece and comments:
http://www.indystar.com/article/20110130/ENTERTAINMENT/101300303/There-s-no-shying-away-new-Fox-59-anchor

2011-01-30 13:40:56

Seen Both Sides [unverified] said:

Dr. White lost me last year when he manufactured promotions with big pay raises for his top administrators, while warning of budget cuts, teacher layoffs, and program cancellations. So, an administrator, already making over 100K a year, moves from being a director to an assistant superintendent and gets a 10k pay raise to do the exact same job as before. In the meantime, he's stuffing 45+ kids into English and math classes in his high schools and blaming the teachers for low test scores. Really? I lost all respect for the man at that moment.

2011-02-01 09:22:58

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