Top official quits state Department of Education; says little respect from colleagues – The Advocate

A top official of the state Department of Education has quit and said she felt marginalized during her time at the agency because of her race and gender.

Kelli Peterson, assistant superintendent for the Office of Equity, Inclusion and Opportunities, was the department’s lone black assistant superintendent.

She submitted her formal resignation to state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley on Aug. 3.

Peterson said that, while there was no single episode that led to her decision, complaints that a recent round of professional development was “stirring issues of racial divisiveness,” was not “culturally relevant” and linked to critical race theory were the final blows.

“I choose to no longer serve in an organization that allows political agendas to drive decisions away from seeing students as their authentic selves, race included, and equipping educators with the tools and language to serve students,” she told Brumley.

Peterson is the latest in a series of departures that have plagued the department, including some key leaders. 

Barely a year into his tenure, state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley’s agency is marked by high turnover that has gotten the attentio…

During a recent three-month period more than 8 percent of agency employees left, a rate that is higher than a typical 12-month period.

Brumley said the turnover stems from disruptions sparked by the coronavirus, and he noted national trends showing lots of people changing jobs.

In a statement issued Saturday Brumley said, ” Dr. Peterson is a talented educator with whom I enjoyed working. I appreciated her perspectives and contributions to the team.”

Peterson, who held the job for just over one year, was paid $149,468 per year.

The leadership of the state Department of Education is undergoing a major shakeup with the arrival of Cade Brumley as state superintendent of …

She is former chief portfolio officer for New Orleans public schools and is a former charter school teacher and principal.

In her letter, Peterson said she was excited when she took the job but has since endured “a thousand papercuts” that included slights from colleagues that made her question her role.

“For instance, my colleagues are seen as the experts in their given area and clarifying questions are asked of them to seek understanding,” she said in her letter.

“My experience has been challenged through leading statements and questions, requirements of processes to be codified in policy and excluded from conversations about the work I lead,” Peterson wrote.

During virtual meetings, she said, education stakeholders refused to call her by her professional title.

“In an email exchange with a board member the professional titles of my team member and I were disregarded no matter how many times we signed our names at the end of the communication or how it appeared in the signature line the board member continued to type “Ms.” instead of “Dr.”

Twice daily we’ll send you the day’s biggest headlines. Sign up today.

“This experience highlights the dismal reality at the intersection of race and my gender and a firsthand experience of subtle microaggression,” Peterson said.

Sandy Holloway, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said Saturday she was surprised to learn Friday that Peterson was leaving.

Holloway declined further comment.

Kira Orange Jones, who lives in New Orleans, said Peterson came to the job highly recommended and enjoys immense respect from charter school officials and others.

“I think her departure is serious cause for concern,” Orange Jones said.

“I really do know what it is like to feel the way she feels, to be treated the way she has been treated, ignored, marginalized,” she said.

Belinda Davis, a BESE member who lives in Baton Rouge, said Peterson will be missed

“I admire and respect Dr. Peterson,” said Davis, who lives in Baton Rouge.

“I in particular will miss her diligence in making sure charter policies were followed and that BESE members were kept informed,” she said.

Peterson told Brumley she has raised questions that stem from critical race theory — the view that racism has played an outsized role in U. S. history that continues to affect daily life.

The issue has sparked controversy during the ongoing update of social studies standards for public schools.

A seemingly routine update of Louisiana’s social studies standards has been delayed for two months amid criticism from former House Education …

Brumley said last month the theory has no place in public schools.

“I don’t believe critical race theory should be taught in K-12 education,” Brumley said. “We have to teach the truth about our history, but we also live in the greatest country on the planet.”

“This is America. And we should teach kids that if you respect your elders, if you work hard you can make your way in the world,” he said.

Peterson disagreed.

“Critical race theory is not the ‘boogie-man’ that many have attempted to make it to be,” she said in her letter.

“It is a theoretical framework that can be applied to assert that it is not that our Black and Brown children are incapable of high achievement but rather institutional racism that has led to structural systemic racism as the cause,” Peterson said.

Peterson said Saturday she had no comment beyond her resignation letter.