John_White_Photo

John White, Louisiana state superintendent of education

Two state officials have said they hope to succeed state Superintendent of Education John White, and a handful of others are expected to surface before Friday's application deadline at 5 p.m.

Kira Orange Jones, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said she anticipates a good mix of contenders for the job.

"I will be surprised if there are not folks that have experience in Louisiana or in the South," Jones said Thursday. "I think we are going to end up with a really diverse pool."

Jones, who lives in New Orleans, is chairwoman of a four-person working group of BESE members who are leading the hunt. That panel will recommend finalists to the full board, which hopes to decide on a new superintendent at the panel's meeting April 20-21. At least eight of 11 members have to agree to hire a superintendent.

White, who has held the post for eight years, is set to resign effective March 11.

The superintendent initiates and carries out policies approved by BESE for Louisiana's nearly 720,000 public school students. He or she also oversees the state Department of Education.

Jessica Baghian, a top lieutenant for White, announced Thursday that she has applied for the job.

Baghian is a Louisiana native, a former teacher and a graduate of Harvard Law School.

She is assistant state superintendent of education and oversees early childhood education, assessment, accountability and analytics.

"I have spent my career working on behalf of the children of Louisiana," said Baghian, 35. "I just believe so deeply in the potential of our children."

Last weekend Heather Poole, executive vice chancellor of student services, enrollment management and foundation relations at Central Louisiana Technical Community College said she too plans to apply for the job.

Poole, who is from Vidalia, has held her current post for about five years. She previously worked for the state Board of Regents for about 15 years.

Poole has said she wants to succeed White because the state continues to hover at or near the bottom of the nation in key student achievement metrics.

Another possibility for the job is Cade Brumley, superintendent of the Jefferson Parish school system.

Brumley has been described as seriously interested in the post, and reaching out to key state officials to boost his prospects.

He has said that while he is flattered to hear his name mentioned, he is focused on continued improvement among his district's 51,000 students.

Brumley, former president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, has led the Jefferson Parish system for about two years. Last year he helped spearhead a 10-year property tax hike approved by voters that boosted teacher pay by about $5,000 per year.

Jones said the BESE working group will spend about one week reviewing applications and begin screening contenders after BESE's regular meeting March 10-11.

Louisiana has never had a woman as permanent state superintendent of education.

Ollie Tyler served as acting superintendent for about seven months in 2011 after former Superintendent Paul Pastorek resigned and before White was named public schools chief.

The hunt for a new superintendent is the first of its kind in decades.

In the past governors announced their choice for the job and BESE generally went along.

But Gov. John Bel Edwards only has three appointees on the board, which is dominated by business-backed members not routinely in step with the governor's views on public schools.


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.