John Avery Bertrand, who as a member of the state school board helped end many electives and adopted stricter graduation standards, died Tuesday, according to a statement released by a funeral home in Crowley. He was 88.
He is survived by his wife, Ella Simar Bertrand, of Crowley, and three daughters.
Bertrand was elected in 1983 to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which sets policy and oversees public schools in Louisiana.
During his 16-year tenure, BESE adopted stricter graduation rules calling for more meaningful English and math courses, and eventually required graduates to take a test before receiving their diploma.
In 1999, Bertrand said he was proud of ending many high school electives in 1980s. “We did away with basket weaving and all those silly electives,” Bertrand told The Advocate at the time.
He served on BESE, often as president, until 2000.
Bertrand left a job as a carpenter’s helper and earned a degree in education using the GI Bill after World War II.
His first job was teaching 50 seventh-graders in Rayne. He taught all the subjects: math, English, reading and writing. He taught elementary school, junior high, high school and college.
He went on to work 13 years as a principal and, starting in 1965, was superintendent of Acadia Parish schools for 19 years.
Between 1988 and 1995, Bertrand also was chairman of Council for the Development of French in Louisiana. CODOFIL works to preserve the French language and culture in Louisiana.
Visitation will be Thursday at Geesey-Ferguson Funeral Home in Crowley. The funeral will be Friday at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Crowley.