CONTRIBUTED PHOTO by LFT -- United Teachers of New Orleans President Larry Carter accepted a Union Values in Action Award at the Louisiana Federation of Teachers’ 48th annual convention in Baton Rouge recently. The award recognizes the efforts of local LFT chapters to promote the union agenda and express commitment to the values that make the Federation the largest professional organization for teachers and school employees in Louisiana. Carter worked with State Rep. James Armes on a bill to double the penalty for charter schools that punish whistleblowers. Although the bill was killed in the House Education Committee, Carter and LFT Legislative Director Mary-Patricia Wray vow to bring the issue back in future legislative sessions.

The interim president of one of Louisiana's two teachers unions is a veteran New Orleans educator said to know his way around the hot-button issues sparking public school debates in Louisiana.

Larry Carter, 48, also hopes to become full-time president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers in November.

Former LFT President Steve Monaghan retired after nearly 13 often turbulent years. His term included pitched battles in the Legislature in 2012 over former Gov. Bobby Jindal's public schools overhaul, which the LFT vehemently opposed.

Carter is president of the United Teachers of New Orleans, an affiliate of the LFT.

In a rarity in Louisiana, UTNO had a collective bargaining agreement with the Orleans Parish School Board until Hurricane Katrina toppled the city's public school system in 2005.

The group now represents top-performing Ben Franklin High School and Morris Jeff Community School, both charter schools.

UTNO includes about 600 teachers and other school workers in traditional and public charter schools.

Carter is a former teacher at Murray Henderson Elementary School on the West Bank of New Orleans, where he taught fourth- and sixth-graders for seven years.

He has been an UTNO member since 1993, including time as a grievance specialist, when he represented teachers with complaints, and later as organizing director for the group.

"My strength is that of an organizer," he said. 

That experience, and seven years as president of the UTNO, have made Carter well-versed in volatile public school topics around the state, according to those who know him.

"He is very much aware of the movements with charters and vouchers and teachers being paid on performance," said Meladie Munch, former president of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the LFT.

New Orleans schools have been in the national spotlight periodically since Hurricane Katrina, especially with charter schools dominating the education landscape.

"I know Larry has done presentations around the country because people look at New Orleans with such a radical change from the typical public school system," Munch said. "He could tell people firsthand what was going on."

Carter is known to be quiet, congenial and energetic.

While no lock for the presidency, he is considered a top contender for the three-year term up for grabs.

The job means, among other things, all but living at the Legislature when it is in session, especially in the House and Senate education committees.

Monaghan also spent long days at the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education during debates over Common Core, teacher evaluations and letter grades for public schools.

"He is pretty well versed on issues," former BESE member Leslie Jacobs, of New Orleans, said of Carter.

"If you are head of the United Teachers of New Orleans, you are really on the cutting edge of knowing a lot of the issues that are being discussed in education reforms across the state," said Jacobs, who helped establish Louisiana's accountability system.

Unlike Monaghan, the next full-time LFT president has the advantage of having an ally as governor.

The group was among the first to back Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, who shares many of the LFT's concerns about vouchers and other school overhaul measures.

"The LFT has been on the front lines fighting to improve the education system for children across Louisiana," Edwards said in a prepared statement.

"The former president, Steve Monaghan, worked tirelessly to advance the mission of the organization, and I am certain that the work will continue under its new leadership," he said.

Sen. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, served on the House Education Committee from 2011-15 and got to know Carter.

"Larry has a long-standing career of working with public education and teachers, particularly in the city of New Orleans," Bishop said. "I think it is a good hire."

State Superintendent of Education John White often clashes with LFT positions. But White praised Carter's denunciation of a report earlier this month that said Louisiana has the worst public school system in the nation.

"Larry is a thoughtful and principled person," White said in an email.

"This week he came to the defense of schools in a big way, explaining the progress in Louisiana classrooms from a factual and informed perspective," he said. "I look forward to working with him."

Carter said he has had a good working relationship with White, a former superintendent of the Recovery School District in New Orleans.

"He has done a fairly good job of pushing the agendas that he was brought in to push." Carter said of White.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.