By Jessica Williams, The Lens staff writer |
Less than two hours after the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education appointed former Recovery School District chief John White to the state superintendent spot, White announced his successor.
White’s pick is RSD Deputy Superintendent for Community and Policy Patrick Dobard, who has long been a silent force in the state education realm. Before his appointment at RSD, he spent three years as the state education department’s deputy director of governmental affairs, and before that, he was a top aide to former state Superintendent Paul Pastorek.
Dobard’s appointment to the top RSD spot quells community concerns that those who previously held the job lacked knowledge of the needs and desires of the community. Born in the 7th Ward, he is the only superintendent to be a native of the city that the district mainly serves.
“I think I’m part of that cultural element, understanding the city – not saying that I’m an expert on it – but I do understand it,” Dobard said in a Wednesday interview.
At White’s swiftly called press conference Wednesday, he had nothing but praise for Dobard, often citing his local background. Though White also praised the progress RSD and Dobard have made, he spoke of the work that still needed to be done throughout the district and the state – an issue that as state superintendent, is now largely his burden to bear.
“As we look ahead, we know there are still many challenges on the horizon,” White said. “We have too many students that are not at proficiency level. We have too many schools that are not yet getting there. And the choices ahead are going to be difficult.”
Dobard acknowledged the same in his acceptance speech, and he spoke of the district’s plans to continue to focus on academic improvement, its new monitoring plan for charter schools, and a soon-to-be released equity report for parents. In a later interview, he also said he plans to continue what he said is the RSD’s trend of being more responsive to community concerns.
“I want my staff and myself to be noticeable in the community, to have that personal touch,” he said. “Those are the things that we are going to continue to have to do, in order continue to build trust. We know that we won’t always have agreement, but folks will know that we have put forth a sincere effort, to really work together.”
Until the state board approves White’s recommendation, Dobard will be considered interim RSD superintendent.