Improving education in Louisiana is difficult and complex. Much work remains, ranging from transforming large-scale state and districtwide policies to putting the best teachers in our classrooms and positioning them for success.

At the heart of the matter is this simple principle: We must work with the moral commitment to make a positive difference in the life of every child. That is the basic mission.

Education improvement is built on the foundation block of excellence in early childhood education and literacy, teacher development and effectiveness, and higher graduation rates of students prepared for work and post-secondary education.

The Louisiana Department of Education under the leadership of Cecil Picard and Paul Pastorek has demonstrated laser focus in these areas.

Our past three governors — Govs. Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco and Bobby Jindal — have supported increased accountability, autonomy and choice in education. Community leaders in education and business have stood behind these efforts. The result is a Louisiana that has stayed the course of education reform.

Now more than ever, strong leadership is necessary to balance the demands and responsibility of preparing our children to meet the increased educational requirements of the future.

Simply stated, Louisiana must continue the pursuit of education excellence and avoid settling for the status quo of being “no worse than any other state.”

In the face of resistance and budgetary challenges, the next superintendent must continue to fight for change and improved performance. While we may not all agree on the means and methods of achieving reform, there should be no disagreement that the measure of progress is improved academic achievement.

Louisiana will need a courageous and visionary education leader to carry on the education reform effort. Meaningful change also will require a leader who builds positive relationships among key stakeholders.

The field of candidates for the next superintendent should not be limited by previous occupation or residence. An open search is more likely to yield the strongest leader — one who can put education attainment of our children at the forefront of every decision.

The selection process should focus on ensuring that the state’s elementary and secondary education model continues to be defined by student achievement and school performance.

The people of Louisiana are right to demand results and to have high expectations for the new superintendent. Our future depends on it.

Steven Scheurich, chairman and president

Education’s Next Horizon

Baton Rouge