Cecil J. Picard, the state superintendent of education in Louisiana since 1996, died Feb. 15 of complications related to Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 68.
After Hurricane Katrina struck, he championed plans for the state to take over most of the schools in New Orleans under the Recovery School District, which oversees 37 schools now operating in the city, including some charters. (“Pressing On,” June 14, 2006.)
“Today, Louisiana lost a giant in the field of public education,” Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco said in a statement.
Mr. Picard also played a leading role in building what has become a nationally recognized system of testing and accountability in Louisiana.
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said in a statement that Mr. Picard “helped spur national dialogue on the importance of accountability in our schools.”
A former principal and state legislator, Mr. Picard was stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2005. He announced plans last fall to retire this coming May.
A version of this article appeared in the February 21, 2007 edition of Education Week