The state has replaced the director of the Louisiana School for the Deaf in Baton Rouge after a report earlier this year blasted school operations, officials said Wednesday.
Donna Alleman, the previous director of the LSD, has been replaced on an interim basis by Ryan Gollner, principal of the school and a veteran administrator at the facility.
Asked if she was forced out, Alleman said she opted to leave state government after 30 years.
"It was my natural time to retire," she said.
State Superintendent of Education John White on Wednesday said Alleman informed him of her plans during an earlier meeting.
Also, former Lafayette Parish Superintendent Patrick Cooper has been named interim superintendent of the Special School District, which includes the LSD and two other schools, the state Department of Education announced.
Cooper was fired from his post by the Lafayette Parish school board, which has triggered a lengthy court battle over the action after Cooper filed a lawsuit.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal ruled in Cooper's favor last year.
All the action comes in the wake of a report that criticized LSD and the two other schools in the SSD -- the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired, also in Baton Rouge, and the Louisiana Special Education Center, which is in Alexandria.
The Louisiana School for the Deaf suffers from low morale among students and staff, is implementing changes without a clear plan and some staf…
The study said the LSD suffers from low morale among students and staff and was implementing changes without a clear plan.
It also said some staff members lack the skills needed to help students.
White said the School for the Deaf needs a strategic plan and an organization that supports it.
Kathy Edmonston, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education who lives in Gonzales, said the LSD is plagued by bureaucratic problems.
"Way too top heavy," Edmondston said of the school.
"That is what the advocates complained about, that it what the parents complained about," she said.
State Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, who earlier this year sponsored bills on education for deaf students, said LSD leaders need to be able to communicate with all students.
"That was not something they were able to get from all the teachers," Smith said of students.
"Those children should be able to go on to college with no problem as long as they have good literacy and good skills," she said.
Gollner has spent his career at the LSD.
He began as a classroom teacher and has managed academic and extracurricular activities since 2015.
"I accepted the position because I believe in our students and in our staff," Gollner, who is deaf, said in a statement. "We have so much potential to grow and do more."
State officials plan to launch a national search this fall for a permanent director of the LSD.
A total of 233 students attend the three schools, including 128 at the School for the Deaf.
White said he has no concerns over Cooper's court fight with his former school board and that Cooper could be a candidate for the job permanently.
"First, I think he has been vindicated on all the legal claims," White said.
"But secondly Pat has a great record of working with students with disabilities and he is a change agent," he said.
Cooper, who had held education jobs for the past three decades, is former assistant state superintendent of the department's Office of Special Education.
He will be paid $12,500 per month.
"I am very pleased and excited to join the Department of Education team as they work to make the Special School District a model of education excellence," Cooper said in a statement.
White earlier said he hoped to have a new superintendent of the Special School District named by July 1.
A Louisiana educator and one from Kansas are the two finalists for the job that oversees the Louisiana School for the Deaf and two others.
Two finalists for the job were announced in June -- Jon Harding, interim superintendent of the Kansas State School for the Blind, and Kristy Flynn, principal for the Louisiana Special Education Center.
Harding was considered a possible hire but no agreement was reached and the search has been re-opened.
White called Gollner and Cooper "two passionate and experienced educators."
"As we continue to search for long-term leadership, we rest assured knowing the district is in capable hands," he said in a statement.