Putting his first imprint on public schools policy, Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards named St. Bernard Parish schools Superintendent Doris Voitier and two others Tuesday to Louisiana’s top school board.
Edwards also appointed Thomas Roque, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Alexandria, and Lurie Thomason Jr., an assistant professor at Grambling State University, to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The governor-elect said his three appointees “will bring solution-driven ideas for the challenges we are facing so that we can produce better outcomes for all of our students.”
All three will join a once obscure, 11-member panel that has been the setting for more than two years of bitter controversy over Common Core and other issues.
BESE sets policies for about 720,000 public school students statewide, including academic standards, teacher evaluations and always controversial public school letter grades.
The trio is expected to be on hand Tuesday and Wednesday for BESE’s regular meeting, which is expected to include arguments over efforts to expand charter school authorizers.
The future of state Superintendent of Education John White, whom Edwards wants replaced, is another issue sure to spark arguments soon.
White, whose $275,000 per year contract expires in January, said he wants to keep his job.
It would take eight BESE votes to end the contract and eight to agree on a new superintendent.
Business-backed candidates for the panel won seven of eight races last year, and backers say that means the board still enjoys a 7-4 reform majority, generally speaking, on key issues.
Voitier, an educator for 45 years, has been superintendent of the St. Bernard Parish school system since 2004.
She won widespread praise for helping to rebuild the district after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
Voitier said Tuesday that, following the tone set by Edwards, she looks forward to helping forge a more collaborative spirit among BESE members.
Roque oversees eight schools with about 2,400 children and 300 teachers.
He was assistant superintendent of administration for the Rapides Parish School District from 1997-2010.
Thomason is an assistant professor in the Criminal Justice Department at Grambling, where he has worked since 1995.
He has also presided over hearings related to student misconduct.
Neither Roque nor Thomason could be reached for comment Tuesday.
Edwards’ appointees replace three named by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.
They are Connie Bradford, of Ruston; Judith Miranti, New Orleans; and Jane Smith, Bossier City.
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