Jul 11, 2018

Search for Permanent Leader Remains Open on Rolling Basis

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The Louisiana Department of Education today announced interim leadership appointments in the Special School District (SSD). Effective immediately, Dr. Patrick Cooper, who once led the state's special education office and who has been a local superintendent, will serve as the Interim Superintendent of the SSD, and Ryan Gollner, principal of the Louisiana School for the Deaf, will now serve as the Interim Director for the Louisiana School for the Deaf.

"We are thrilled to have two passionate and experienced educators step into interim leadership roles in the Special School District," said State Superintendent John White. "As we continue to search for long-term leadership, we rest assured knowing the district is in capable hands."

Kathy Edmonston, member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, agreed. "I look forward to working with Dr. Cooper, Mr. Gollner and all other leaders of the schools and programs to implement the new vision for the SSD. The students enrolled in the SSD schools and programs deserve the best. We are listening to their needs."

Cooper, who most recently has managed an education consulting business, has held executive leadership positions focused on education for nearly three decades, including assistant superintendent of the Department's Office of Special Education, superintendent of schools in Lafayette and West Feliciana parishes and state supervisor of a program for children with autism and emotional disabilities. He has also served in roles ranging from classroom teacher to principal to university faculty member to educational supervisor at an institute for delinquent and maladjusted children. Through those positions, Cooper has earned valuable experience in special education and juvenile justice.

"I am very pleased and excited to join the Department of Education team as they work to make the Special School District a model of education excellence," Cooper said.

Gollner has worked at the Louisiana School for the Deaf his entire career, starting as a classroom teacher and rising through the ranks to eventually become Assistant Principal and then Principal. He has managed all academic and extracurricular activities of the school since 2015. Gollner, who is deaf, is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and is a knowledgeable and proactive member of the deaf community. Through a new partnership, Gollner will be supported by Jeffrey S. Bravin, Executive Director of the American School for the Deaf, as he leads the Louisiana School for the Deaf this year.

"I accepted the position because I believe in our students and in our staff," Gollner said. "We have so much potential to grow and do more. I look forward to working and building positive relationships with the students, staff, parents and the deaf community, as well as continuing our work with the ASL/English Bilingual Program and raising the academic bar for our students."

The SSD was established by the Louisiana State Legislature to provide education to students housed in state or privatized facilities and hospitals. The SSD oversees Louisiana's three special schools: the Louisiana School for the Deaf, the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired and the Louisiana Special Education Center. It also manages educational programs for eligible students enrolled in the Office of Youth Development, Office of Behavioral Health, Office of Developmental Disabilities, Department of Public Safety and Corrections and privatized facilities across the state.

The SSD is in a time of transition. Last year, the Department, concerned with low student outcomes, contracted Education Development Center, Inc. to review each school in the district and provide recommendations on how they could become models of excellence in the state. Education Development Center, Inc., working with subcontracted experts from the American School for the Deaf, the Perkins School for the Blind, and the Cotting School, visited each site, conducted interviews and focus groups, reviewed current and historical school data, and looked to national academic models that could be implemented in Louisiana. Those efforts results in a 17-page report of findings and recommendations for improvement.

In response, the Department launched a national search for a new Superintendent of the SSD. The search is ongoing, and applications for the position will be accepted on a rolling basis until the position is filled. Louisiana seeks a Superintendent who has extensive experience in the education of students with low incidence needs and who has expertise in managing systemic change.

In addition, a national search for a long-term leader of the Louisiana School for the Deaf will begin this fall. Leadership at the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired, the Louisiana Special Education Center and the SSD's academic programs will remain unchanged.

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