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Louisiana looking for new leader to oversee special schools

March 17, 2018

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s launching a national search for a new superintendent to manage the state’s schools for deaf, blind and special education students, fter report commissioned by the state education department found the schools needed leadership with more expertise.

The schools are combined into what is called the Special School District.

Beyond hiring a new leader, Superintendent of Education John White wants a management group to review the district’s organizational and financial structure. He also expects the new superintendent to provide regular updates to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“With a new vision, the (district) can be a national leader in addressing the needs of some of our most vulnerable learners,” White said in a statement.

The Advocate reports that Monte Burke, the current superintendent, said in an email he will remain in his $120,000-per-year post until the school year’s end. Burke said he has no plans to apply for the redesigned position.

The district oversees the Louisiana School for the Deaf, Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired and the Louisiana Special Education Center. The schools for the deaf and visually impaired are located in Baton Rouge. The special education center is in Alexandria and serves students with mental impairments and orthopedic problems. The schools have 233 students.

A report released last week, said the Louisiana School for the Deaf is suffering from low morale among students and staff, implementing changes without a clear plan and lacking needed skills in some staff members.

Parents and others have complained that Special School District officials have micromanaged the school. The report said the district should be reorganized so instructional decisions are made by school officials, with changes needed at the state level to achieve that.

Student Emily Zeringue told the state education board that she arrived at the Louisiana School for the Deaf after moving from a top-flight school in Massachusetts. Speaking through an interpreter, Zeringue offered a blunt assessment.

“To be honest, I didn’t learn anything at the Louisiana School for the Deaf,” she said.

State officials said the job of superintendent of the Special School District will be turned into one aimed at creating a statewide model of excellence. The next superintendent will have extensive experience in the education of children with low-incidence disabilities and an expert in managing systemic change, they said.

White will make the selection.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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