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 fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.