A Seattle education official was named Wednesday as executive director of the state’s top school board despite complaints that officials passed over qualified applicants from Louisiana.
Heather Cope, an official with the League of Education Voters, will be paid $125,000 per year as executive director of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. BESE sets policies for about 700,000 public school students statewide.
The executive director is responsible for administrative and fiscal operations of the board office.
BESE Vice-President Chas Roemer, who lives in Baton Rouge, said Cope was impressive in her interview, has political and education policy experience and a passion for her work.
“I thought at the end of the day this was the best candidate,” Roemer said.
Lottie Beebe, a BESE member from Breaux Bridge and Carolyn Hill, a BESE member from Baton Rouge, criticized the hiring of someone from outside the state.
Beebe said there were 8-10 well qualified contenders from Louisiana who wanted the job.
“This is a travesty,” she said.
“I do know we have individuals in Louisiana who understand our culture, our Legislature, the people, the needs,” Beebe said.
Hill also criticized the choice.
“This young lady does not have as much experience as other candidates in the packet that is in front of me,” Hill said.
She echoed Beebe’s view that Louisiana’s culture warrants an in-state hire.
Beebe and Hill cast the lone “no” votes on the motion to approve Cope’s selection.
Eight BESE members approved the choice, which is effective on Sept. 28. One was absent.
Cope is a former teacher and reporter, according to the group’s website.
She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and political science from the University of Washington and a degree in teaching from Pace University.
The League of Education Voters calls itself an advocate of systemic changes in public schools.
Jim Garvey, a BESE member from Metairie, said he reviewed the r ésumés of the candidates from Louisiana. “But the r ésumé of this young lady was better,” Garvey said.
BESE President Penny Dastugue praised Cope.
“We are bringing forth who we think is the strongest candidate,” Dastugue said.
She said 27 people applied for the job and four were interviewed.
Cope will succeed Catherine Pozniak, who took the job 18 months ago.