ACA.earlychildhood.012420

Assistant State Superintendent of Education Jessica Baghian, center, talks to three year old Lillian Widgeon, right, while on a visit by State education leaders and local policymakers to the early childhood education center at Close to Home Daycare on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 in Lafayette, La.

A top official of the state Department of Education who narrowly lost a bid to become state superintendent of education two weeks ago has submitted her resignation, officials said Wednesday.

Jessica Baghian, assistant state superintendent of education and a nine-year veteran of the agency, spelled out her plans in a letter to acting state Superintendent of Education Beth Scioneaux.

"I am writing with a great sense of pride and gratitude to share that my last day at the Department of Education will be Friday, June 12," Baghian said in a letter dated June 2.

Baghian, 35, finished second to Cade Brumley, superintendent of the Jefferson Parish school system, when Louisiana's top school board made its state superintendent choice on May 20.

In the second round of voting, Baghian got six of the eight votes she needed on the 11-member state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Brumley, 39, then got eight votes for the job, which he begins Monday.

Baghian said she is friends with Brumley and that he asked her to remain at the department.

She said Wednesday she is exploring options for her next job.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

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

Baghian was a key aide to former state Superintendent of Education John White and previously served as deputy chief of staff and assistant state superintendent of education for assessments and accountability.

Her current title is assistant state superintendent of education and chief academic policy officer and she is paid $166,000 per year.

Baghian has played a major role in state efforts to improve early childhood education, including a recent push to expand access to state subsidies for low-income families to help defray some of the costs of day care while parents work, attend school or undergo job training.

She also crafted and implemented the state's method of issuing letter grades to public schools, a move aimed at making the ratings understandable to parents and students.

Jim Garvey, a Metairie attorney who supported Baghian for superintendent, said while he understands her decision he is sorry to see her leave the department.

"One of the reasons she put her hat in the ring for superintendent was because she was ready to move on to bigger challenges," said Garvey, the longest serving member of BESE.

BESE President Sandy Holloway, who backed Brumley for the job, said in an email that Baghian "is an innovative, nationally-recognized leader in K-12 and early childhood policy and program development."

Baghian, a Sulphur native, got her undergraduate degree from LSU and a law degree from Harvard Law School.


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.