Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, Dr. Rebekah Gee, and Education Superintendent John White, both gave notice of their resignations in January.
In a statement, Governor Edwards said, “Dr. Gee has been on the front lines of this transformational improvement to health care in Louisiana. Under her leadership, we brought health care to more than 460,000 hard-working adults who now have access to the medical services they need to live healthier lives, to fight chronic illness and, in some cases, survive,” Governor Edwards said.
“I am thankful for her partnership on this issue and on her lifechanging – and saving – work to eliminate Hepatitis C in Louisiana, to fight opioid addiction and to lower the rate of HIV in our state,” said Edwards, who won reelection in November. “She is a champion for improved health outcomes for all the people of our state, especially mothers and children. I wish her well in the future.”
Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Louis Gurvich continued his criticism. “We at the Republican Party of Louisiana are pleased to learn that after four years of ruinous mismanagement, …” Gurvich said, as reported in the News Star.
On January 31, Gov. Edwards announced Stephen Russo as the interim secretary of the Department of Health. The Governor hopes to name a permanent LDH secretary in the coming weeks.
Russo currently serves as LDH’s executive counsel and is a graduate of Louisiana State University’s Paul M. Hebert Law Center. He has served as executive counsel since 2008.
Gov. Edwards said, “I appreciate Stephen Russo stepping up to lead the department during this time of transition and for his 24 years of service at the agency. Louisiana’s health department is responsible for everything from promoting better health outcomes to ensuring coverage for working Louisianans and some of our most vulnerable populations.
On January 8, John White announced that he will step down from his role as Louisiana’s State Superintendent of Education in March. White is the longest serving state education chief in the nation.
He launched Louisiana Believes, the state’s plan to ensure every child is on track to a college degree or a professional career.
Louisiana Believes includes nationally recognized initiatives such as Early Childhood Networks, Louisiana Teacher Leaders, ELA Curriculum Guidebooks, Believe and Prepare teacher residencies, Jump Start career education, the state’s Innovative Assessment Pilot, and the Louisiana FAFSA initiative.
Superintendent White and his team have also led the post-Katrina renovation and unification of schools in New Orleans and the creation of the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone.
According to the Department’s information:
Today Louisiana is a better educated state than at any point in the state’s history.
Louisiana’s class of 2018 included 5,000 more graduates than did the class of 2012.
Five thousand more students in that class earned the state’s TOPS scholarship, and 5,000 more enrolled in college after graduating high school.
In that time, the number of Louisiana students earning Advanced Placement early college credits has increased by 167 percent, and the state leads the nation in the percentage of high school seniors completing an application for higher education financial aid.
In his statement, the Governor said, “Though we have not always seen eye to eye, I appreciate John White’s service to our state. By working together, teachers received their first pay raise in a decade, MFP funding increased and additional funding was provided for early childhood education, all things the Superintendent supported. Louisiana has also achieved the highest graduation rate in history, increased the numbers of high schoolers earning college credit, and provided more opportunities for families needing early childhood education services. I wish him well, and I thank him for his service to our state.”
In a January letter to members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, White said, “Our work together has been focused on causes critical not just to the future of schooling but also to the future well-being of our state and nation.”