Jessica Baghian headshot 2018

Jessica Baghian, assistant state superintendent of Education

Jessica Baghian, a top lieutenant for state Superintendent of Education John White, said Thursday morning she has applied for the job White is vacating.

Baghian, 35, oversees early childhood education, assessments, accountability and analytics at the state Department of Education. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School, a former teacher and Louisiana native.

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

Baghian, the mother of two children, has worked at the department since 2011.

White is resigning effective March 11 after eight years on the job.

A four-person search committee of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has set a deadline of Friday at 5 p.m. for applications.

The selection of a new state superintendent requires the votes of at least eight of BESE's 11 members.

Baghian noted that, during her time at the department, the state's high school graduation rate has reached its highest ever – 81% – and that Louisiana has finished in the Top 10 nationally in gains on the nation's report called, which is the called the National Assessment of Education Progress.

"We are a national success story for the gains we have made on education," she said. "We still have a long, long way to go."

Heather Poole, a higher education official in Alexandria, said she plans to apply for the job.

Poole has said one reason she is pursuing the post is because public school students rank near the bottom in the nation in key student achievement metrics.

Jefferson Parish Superintendent Cade Brumley is also believed to have an interest in succeeding White.

Baghian is former deputy chief of staff for the department, where she designed and implemented Louisiana's public letter grade system for the yearly ranking of schools and districts.

She helped lead the initial overhaul of the state's early childhood education system after the Legislature ordered a revamp in 2012.

The issue will be a key topic during the 2020 legislative session.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has recommended a $25 million increase that would provide access to about 4,000 children from low-income families while their parents work or attend school.

Baghian was a middle school math teacher in St. John the Baptist Parish from 2006-08.

She got her undergraduate degree in mass communications from LSU in 2006 and her law degree from Harvard Law School in 2011.

Check back with The Advocate for more details.


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.