Cecil J. Picard, Louisiana’s state superintendent of education, said last week that he plans to retire next spring because of ill health.
Mr. Picard, 68, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in May 2005, but had hoped to stay on until his contract ended at the end of next year.
“Unfortunately, I feel as though my energy and focus is beginning to wane, and both are needed to fully implement our vision for educational improvement,” he said in a Dec. 7 press release.
Since Mr. Picard’s appointment by the state board of education in 1996, he has been credited with turning the state’s struggling education system into a nationally recognized leader in standards, testing, and accountability. The state regularly receives high marks in Quality Counts, Education Week’s annual report on state education policies and performance.
As state chief, he has overseen the recovery efforts of Louisiana schools since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in August of last year. (“Pressing On,” June 14, 2006.)
The 11-member state board of education has not yet decided if it will name an interim superintendent or begin an immediate search for Mr. Picard’s successor.
A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 2006 edition of Education Week