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
Friends and family will celebrate Spider's life in September.
Saints safety Jairus Byrd has rarely been so eager to hit and be hit, if only to reassure himself that his surgically repaired back is as healed as doctors believe.
Jindal privatized nearly all the LSU hospitals without waiting for federal officials to sign off on financing arrangements that rely on millions of federal Medicaid dollars.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her main Republican challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy, verbally sparred as they officially signed up on the opening day of qualifying for Louisiana's November election.
Superintendent tells crowd he'd just emerged from a four-hour meeting with the attorney hired to investigate him.
The start of the three-day qualifying period for November’s elections has so far yielded 10 official bids and one new announcement from candidates seeking a seat on the school board.
It’s been just over four months since attorney Barry Domingue committed suicide the morning before he was to stand trial for a second day in the federal Curious Goods case, leaving his fellow attorney/co-defendant Daniel Stanford with a temporary mistrial and awaiting his day in court.
Candidates for Louisiana's Nov. 4 election must officially sign up for the ballot this week.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's effort to derail Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards was halted Tuesday by a state judge who said the governor's actions were harmful to parents, teachers and students.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram isn't letting a humbling start to his pro career lower his opinion of what he can still accomplish in the NFL.
Phoenix flooding stuns residents; Gaza truce talks collapse, NFL vets defy age label and more national and international news for Wednesday, August 20, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Visualize Lafayette’s next great thing from 3,000 feet.
A Baton Rouge judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday against enforcing a law that prohibits anyone 70 or older from running for justice of the peace or constable.
Gov. Bobby Jindal believes the last-minute passage of a pension hike for his state police superintendent, Col. Mike Edmonson, was improperly handled, according to the governor's office.
As the courts hash out the attempts to preserve and shelve Common Core in Louisiana, a group of six state lawmakers are planning an Aug. 22 trip to Oklahoma to meet with their counterparts and strategize for the 2015 regular session.
While hopes are high for turnout this fall, a new report from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate suggests that Louisiana's midterm face-offs may amount to nothing special in terms of votes cast.
The attorney hired by the Lafayette Parish School Board for a special investigation of Superintendent Pat Cooper has submitted his final report, though it may be another week before the findings are made public.
The Tea Party of Louisiana is calling Sen. David Vitter a “turncoat” for his newfound embrace of Common Core educational standards.
An annual report evaluating Gov. Bobby Jindal's privatization of Medicaid lacked important financial information and presented rosy performance reviews not corroborated by data, according to a review released Monday.
Lafayette attorney Michelle Meaux-Breaux has announced her plans to seek the Division E seat for judge in the 15th Judicial District.
A card-carrying member of Lafayette’s “tribe,” Milton “Spider” Guidry died over the weekend. IND music writer Nick Pittman remembers the character and the man.
As tensions continue to escalate in Ferguson, Mo., between law enforcement and residents protesting the shooting death of a local teen by police, we’re reminded of the peculiar circumstances surrounding the in-custody death earlier this year of a New Iberia man.
A group of teachers and parents who support Common Core is asking a state judge to invalidate Gov. Bobby Jindal's actions against the multi-state education standards.
Drew Brees walked up to the line of scrimmage early Sunday, taking a snap during the New Orleans Saints' pre-practice walk-through.