After a decade as state superintendent of education and more than 30 years of service in state government, Cecil Picard announced his retirement last week. Picard, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ' more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease ' in May of last year, cited his deteriorating health in deciding to step down from the state's top education post.
"I told Gov. Blanco and my staff that my plan was to work through the end of her first term as long as my health allowed me to," Picard said. "Unfortunately, I feel as thought my energy and focus is beginning to wane and both are needed to fully implement our vision for educational improvement."
Picard's retirement will become effective May 1, 2007. In the meantime, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be charged with finding Picard's successor.
A native of Maurice, the 68-year-old Picard, who now resides in Lafayette, began his career following in the footsteps of his father, working as a teacher, coach and principal at Maurice High School. In 1975, he was elected to the state House of Representatives, and moved up to the state Senate in 1979. A champion of education reform in the Legislature, Picard was named state Superintendent of Education in 1996. As superintendent, he is credited with spearheading the state's Accountability Program and the LA 4 Pre-K program, both of which have been recognized nationally as model programs. Over the past year, Picard also helped oversee the massive recovery assistance to public schools in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"Life has an interesting way of pushing you toward your destiny," Picard said. "When I was growing up I knew one thing for sure ' I did not want to follow in my dad's footsteps and become a principal and coach. But I soon found that I was a good teacher and a good principal and a good coach ' I was passionate about it. Those experiences in the classroom laid a foundation for me, but I knew if I wanted to make a real difference I would have to influence educational policy at a state level, so I ran for the House and the rest is history. I hope that I've made a difference. I think I have."' Nathan Stubbs
FEMA SQUANDERS $1 BILLION
FEMA continues to bewilder Louisianians with bureaucratic blunders. Last week, the federal Government Accountability Office issued a report on FEMA's massive mismanagement, outlining $1 billion in disaster aid waste. GAO investigator Gregory Kutz said, "Our estimate of $1 billion in improper and/or fraudulent payments is likely understated." The agency's findings detailed bogus rental payments, duplicated aid and a multitude of puzzling mishaps. For example, FEMA purchased 20 flat-bottom boats but lost two of them and did not have titles to the other 18 boats. ' NS
ATTORNEY GENERAL UPHOLDS NEW SCALPING LAW
The final step in Louisiana's push to legalize online ticket scalping for concerts and sporting events came last week when the Attorney General's Office released an opinion siding with a decision already made by the Legislature and Gov. Kathleen Blanco. The opinion allows any "legitimate holder of tickets" to sell their tickets over the Internet as long as the letter of the new law is followed. So you can sell those Britney Spears tickets for $100 over the ticket price as long as the event organizer doesn't object and the transaction takes place on a Web site that offers full refunds if Britney or your home team is a no-show. The New Orleans Saints have already launched their own ticket exchange program where buyers are charged with a 10 percent transaction fee while sellers are charged 15 percent. ' Jeremy Alford
UL LAFAYETTE SPEARHEADING SERVICE-LEARNING PROJECTS
UL Lafayette is expected to spend more than $500,000 on a batch of new service-learning projects that will bolster ecotourism, launch intergenerational studies, foster creative writing in the region and create stronger partnerships with parish schools. Half of the money came in the form of a matching grant last week from the University of Louisiana System.
It marks the first phase of a three-year, $1.2 million initiative called ULS Serves, which aims to increase service-learning at the system's eight campuses. It's a simple formula that has yielded positive results for other universities, says UL System Board Chair Jimmy Long. "Students who connect to their communities through service become better citizens," he says. The centerpiece of the planned projects could be the "Acadiana Food and Folklore Media Initiative," which partners the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission with a bevy of local groups to study, conserve and promote Louisiana's unique cultural assets as a way to build ecotourism opportunities.
There are also projects slated that partner architecture students with Boys and Girls Club members; teacher candidates with local schools; and nutritionists with the elderly. Another service learning project will partner college students with local high school students to reinstate the 42-year-old tradition of the Deep South Festival of Writers after a four-year absence. The festival will teach attendees how to cope with and reflect on traumatic events through art and writing. The original grant money was made possible by Learn and Serve America, a division of the Corporation for National and Community Service in Washington, D.C. ' JA
Acadiana High kicker Drew Alleman's 32-yard field goal gave the Wreckin' Rams a 13-10 victory over Sulphur Saturday in the Class 5-A state championship game in the New Orleans Superdome. Alleman nailed the field goal, the final play of the game, clinching the Rams' first-ever state title.
SAVOY AND THOMAS GET GRAMMY NOMINATIONS
Local musician Ann Savoy has been nominated for a Grammy Award for her work with Linda Ronstadt on Adieu False Heart in the Best Traditional Folk Album category. Savoy and Ronstadt were featured in The Independent's July 26 cover story, "Songbird Sisters."
New Orleans Soul Queen Irma Thomas is also up for a Grammy for her album After the Rain in the Best Contemporary Blues Album category. Thomas recorded the album at Dockside Studio in Maurice, with the help of local musicians Sonny Landreth, Dirk Powell and David Egan; 2006 Festival International headliner Thomas was also the subject of an April 26 Independent cover story, "Queen in Exile."
Other Louisiana nominees include Allen Toussaint with Elvis Costello, Dr. John, Tab Benoit, Branford Marsalis, Terence Blanchard and Harry Connick Jr. Read the complete list of Louisiana's nominees at Greg Hardison's satchmo.com Web site. ' R. Reese Fuller
The Lafayette superintendent insists the budget is illegal and vows to fight on.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.