Commissioner of Education search committee 112817

Marty Chabert, center, asks a question Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, of a consultant assisting in the search by the Louisiana Board of Regents for a commissioner of higher education to replace Joseph Rallo, who is retiring. At right is Robert Levy, chairman of the regents' search committee and, at left, Darren Mire, who like Chabert is on the six-member search panel, and Rallo.

The Louisiana Board of Regents plans to hire a new commissioner of higher education in early April 2018, officials said Tuesday.

The panel hopes to have final interviews with the candidates on or close to April 4, said Robert  Levy, chairman of the six-member search panel.

Higher Education Commissioner Joe Rallo announced in August that he is retiring.

Rallo, who has held the job since January 2015, tentatively plans to remain in the post through June.

The commissioner oversees the state's 38 colleges and universities, which includes about 217,000 students.

The system includes governing boards for LSU, Southern, the Louisiana Community and Technical College system and the University of Louisiana System.

The fact that higher education in Louisiana often speaks with multiple voices, and oftentimes conflicting views, is something the next commissioner should know, regents said. 

The current search, like the one that resulted in Rallo's hiring, is being assisted by AGB Search of Washington, D.C.

The firm is to be paid $110,000 for services and up to $15,000 for expenses.

Three officials of the company met  for about 90 minutes Tuesday with the search committee, which held its first gathering.

Janice Fitzgerald, one of the consultants, said advertisements for the job will begin appearing on Dec. 18 and that it will be a national search.

Fitzgerald said on Feb. 13 officials will sift through the initial list of those expressing interest in the post.

Around mid-March another list will be compiled of those recommended for interviews with state officials.

A mix of traditional and non-traditional candidates is expected.

Jim McCormick, another AGB consultant, said there is a recent trend of physicians and attorneys expressing interest in top higher education jobs.

Uma Subramanian, deputy commissioner for legal and external affairs, told the regents that the names of the initial wave of possible applicants do not have to be made public.

Subramanian said that, when both the candidate and state officials show interest in a possible hiring, the name is subject to public disclosure.

The key word is applicant, she said.

Whoever succeeds Rallo will assume the job at a time when state aid for higher education has plummeted amid recurring budget problems.

That annual aid has been cut from about $1.5 billion in 2008 to just over $800 million this year.

The 2018 regular legislative session begins on March 12, just a few weeks ahead of an expected decision on the next commissioner.

Rallo is paid $364,000 per year.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.