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Jessica Baghian and Paul Vallas Among 7 Candidates for La. State Superintendent

March 24, 2020

On March 19, 2020, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) superintendent search work group, headed by Kira Orange-Jones, petitioned BESE to narrow the search for Louisiana’s next state education superintendent to the following seven candidates:

  • Jessica Baghian
  • Cade Brumley
  • Debbra Lindo
  • Lonnie Luce
  • Heather Poole
  • Joe Siedlecki
  • Paul Vallas

In the course of researching the seven individuals remaining in Louisiana’s superintendent search, I found this March 2020 board doc of resumes for 20 applicants.

I had already written most of the post based on other sources, which is better because I have information here that would not make it past resume gloss. Of course, feel free to also read candidate resumes from BESE’s board docs and compare to info in this post.



Jessica Baghian

I previously wrote about Jessica Baghian‘s wanting to be superintendent as no surprise since she is curently an assistant superintendent. What may surprise many is that she exited the classroom with only two years of teaching experience and zero experience as a school-level adminstrator. In true ed-reform fashion, Baghian was placed in a top-level admin position with only token K12 ed experience.



Cade Brumley

Cade Brumley is the newly-arrived superintendent of Jefferson Parish schools after being superintendent of DeSoto Parish. He is also a graduate of ed-reformer mint, the Broad Academy. Even so, Calcasieu teacher and education writer, Ganey Arsement, has found Brumley worthy of endorsement:

Cade Brumley: Currently serving as superintendent of Jefferson parish where he has been for a little over a year. Prior to that Brumley served as superintendent of DeSoto parish where he worked his way up through the ranks beginning as a teacher. Brumley also meets all of the qualifications mentioned above, but I want to offer a caveat. Brumley is also a product of the Broad Academy, as well as, numerous other “education reform” programs. I’ll go on the record and say that I had concerns about this, and I asked him about it, directly. In fact, I have had many communications with Brumley, and have never been disappointed in his responses. He was very willing to explain that his position is that if you are going to be successful at anything, it is imperative that you understand everything about it. In a sense, I agree. It’s difficult to defend your position if you don’t completely understand the other. Brumley has served as president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents. He was instrumental in getting BESE to adopt a less stringent, although still stringent, accountability system.

In November 2017, the Louisiana Association of Superintendents made the bold move of unifying all of the superintendents across the state to press BESE to adopt a less stringent accountability plan and released a public statement which can be read here —>LASS Seeks to Unify Discussion and Actions to Improve Public Education in Louisiana

In order to better understand some of the context of the statement, I reached out to Brumley asking him to clarify. I emailed him and copied the other leaders of the organization, and when he responded, he included them in his response. It can be read here. —>Brumley Responses

I have many other communications with Brumley that I am happy to share should he become a valid possibility to replace White. If he does, I will support him. I hope you do, too.



Debbra Lindo

Debbra LindoNot feeling good at all about this one. For starters, I had to piece together Lindo’s background from multiple sources. Lindo has no readily-available, comprehensive resume online. Secondly, Lindo’s career in education has too much transience, and it seems that she is just trying to land a superintendency somewhere. 

So, here is what I have: From a picture caption in this June 18, 2010, San Diego Tribune article, I found Lindo’s education background:

Bachelor’s degree in U.S. history, Mills College; maters degree in education, Stanford University; doctorate in educational leadership, St. Mary’s College.

From this EF+ Math Program bio, I learned that Lindo “has been a public high school English and social studies teacher, a school principal in both urban and suburban settings.” The bio notes Lindo was a high school principal in the Oakland School District (California). This November 1997 San Francisco Chronicle article has Lindo as a high school principal in Belmont.

In 2010,  Lindo was a finalist to become superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District. However, after “a stint as CEO of the after-school college preparatory program College Track,she ended up in Palo Alto as director of secondary education, where she stayed for one year before moving on become superintendent of the Emery Unified School District (Emeryville, also in California) in 2011. Three years later, in January 2014, Lindo was placed on mystery leave despite her already stating she planned to leave anyway in June 2014. From the January 2014 E’ville Eye:

As first reported by The Tattler and since confirmed by the Oakland Tribune, embattled EUSD Superintendent Debbra Lindo, whom announced her retirement in October, has been placed “on leave” and effectively being forced out. She was slated to step down in June to give the city enough time to find her replacement but the situation may have escalated. Former Emery Superintendent and State of California Department of Education Trustee John Quinn has stepped in as interim Superintendent. The School District has not made an official statement.

It seems that Lindo has not been a superintendent since her clouded, 2014 departure from Emery Unified School District. Her EF+ Math Program bio, which appears to have the most recent information on Lindo, identifies Lindo in its final lines as “superintendent emerita” of Emery Unified.

Lindo looks like a load of problems eyeballing the Louisiana superintendency because, why not?



Alonzo “Lonnie” Luce

According to his Linkein bio, Lonnie Luce is the executive director of “blended and online school solutions” for Charter Schools USA in Baton Rouge for one year and was superintendent of Charter Schools USA in Baton Rouge, also for one year.

Prior to that, for only nine months, Luce served as chief operating officer for the Foundation for Louisiana’s Students, which, according to its 2017 tax form, “does business as” University View Academy, a Baton Rouge charter school where Luce was superintendent two years prior (2016-2018).

Prior to his involvement with charter schools, Luce was superintendent of St. James Parish (2007-2016), where the school board bought out his contract in 2016 due to “a tenuous relationship” between Luce and the school board. (Luce’s contract was apparently renewed in 2012 due to a single board member’s absence during the vote, and changes in the board left the board wanting “to move in a new direction.”)

Luce has experience as a deputy superintendent in Greenville County Schools (South Carolina) (2003-2007) and as chief information officer for New Orleans Public Schools (2001-2003).

Luce is a Louisiana native who graduated with a bachelors in social studies and math (1991) from Sounteastern Louisiana University and a Ph.D. in education administration and supervision from Louisiana State University (LSU) (1999).



Heather Poole

According to her Linkedin bio, Heather Poole has no experience as a K12 teacher or a school-level administrator. She holds an MBA from LSU (2004) and an Ed.D. in higher ed admin from Louisiana Tech (2019). She does not list her undergraduate degree on Linkedin, but it is in general studies from LSU. (See Poole’s board doc resume.) Her professional experience goes back to 1997 as assistant commissioner of assessment and economic development for Louisiana’s Board of Regents.

Poole has always been in some sort of administrative role notably removed from daily experience with the K12 classroom:

  • Asst. commissioner of assessment/economic dev’t, La. Board of Regents (1997-2012)
  • Executive director/dean, Learning Center for Rapides Parish (2010-2013)
  • Associate vice chancellor, enrollement services, LSU Alexandria (2013-2014)
  • Vice chancellor, Central La. Tech. Community College (CLTCC) (Jan.-Sept. 2015)
  • Exec. vice chancellor, student svcs., enrollment mgt.. fdn. relations (Sept. 2015-present)

State superintendent? Why not?



Joe Siedlecki

Well. Here’s Joe Siedlecki, from his 2017 Louisiana Charter Schools conference bio:

Joe Siedlecki is the Associate Commissioner for School Improvement, Innovation, and Charters at the Texas Education Agency. Before joining TEA, he spent ten years with the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation where he leads their Quality School Options initiative to advance the portfolio strategy and grow great schools. He has also worked for the White House Office of Management and Budget and Deloitte Consulting. Joe graduated from Lyndon B. Johnson School at the University of Texas at Austin and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

According to his “Joe S.” Linkedin bio, Siedlecki has no K12 classroom or school-level administrative experience. His bachelors degree is in business and economics, and his business landed him a charter-school-promoting job with the Dell Foundation, which, in turn, landed him a charter-school-promoting job with the Texas Education Agency:

  • Consultant, Deloitte Consulting (1998-2003)
  • Researcher, Ray Marshall Center (“for the study of human resources”) (2003-2005)
  • Budget, policy, regulatory analysis employee, White House Office of Management and Budget (2005-2008)
  • Supporter of “systems to design and grow great schools,” Dell Foundation (2008-2016)
  • Associate commissioner of school improvement, innovation, and charter schools, Texas Education Agency (2016-present)

No K12 classroom experience. No school-level admin experience. Wants to become state superintendent.


Paul Vallas

Paul Vallas

Paul Vallas is the worst one of all.

In my book, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education (Information Age Press, 2014), I have three chapters on Paul Vallas. Vallas was budget director for the City of Chicago, when in 1995 he was appointed Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO by mayor Richard Daley, who had just gained mayoral control of CPS. All of Vallas’ professional experience was in economics, and he had just been given carte blanche over Chicago’s public schools. Vallas was a budget slasher, school starver and closer. And he sees pension funds as money to spend. In order to balance the budget and create a surplus, Vallas raided the CPS pension fund, which produced a fiscal crisis for CPS, but not immediately. Vallas left CPS in 2001 after falling out of Daley’s favor, so he was gone by the time his CPS pension raid budgeting “miracle” was unraveling in 2006. By then Vallas had moved on to Philadelphia, again as a mayoral-control, carte blanche schools CEO. There he produced another school budgeting crisis:

Perhaps Vallas’ worst moment as a budgeter occured on December 11, 2006, when he had to face the Philadelphia City Council and justify not just more budget cuts, but more cuts in an attempt to solve a deficit mid-school-year to the tune of $73.3 million.

Four months prior, in August 2006, Vallas had told the Philadelphia City Council that the budget was balanced. And one month before that, in July 2006, the School Reform Commission (SRC) voted 3-2 to renew Vallas’ contract until 2010. Embarrased, SRC took Vallas to lunch in early 2007 to tell him they no longer had confidence in him. Vallas resigned in April 2007.

A couple of months later, he came to New Orleans. At the time of his arrival, Vallas indicated that he only intended to remain for a couple of years. During that time, Vallas maintained his residence in Chicago, and then-Louisiana superintendent, Paul Pastorek, allowed Vallas to use a taxpayer-funded vehicle to commute 31 times from New Orleans to Chicago.

As superintendent of New Orleans’ post-Katrina Recovery School District (RSD), Vallas once again was a superintendent with unchecked power. He answered to no one.

Four consecutive audits of RSD finances under Vallas (for 2007-2010) showed a lack of fiscal oversight, including overpaying employees year after year, theft of 34 laptops paid for with federal money, charges to the federal student breakfast and lunch programs for ineligible students, $6.1M for payments beyond the scope of contracts on modular campus construction, including a vendor charging for equipment not delivered and even charging $110 to drill each of 180 holes that took only seconds apiece to drill.

In 2010, Vallas missed 48 days of work as he traveled to Haiti to consult on education. He was not paid during the time he was absent, but he was missing in action to lead RSD. No problem for a man with carte blanche.

In 2011, Vallas went to Chile to promote school privatization and was met with 20,000 people, mostly students, protesting the “USA style reforms” Vallas was pushing.

Also in 2011, Vallas moved on to become superintendent in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he tried to exercise carte blanche leadership but was met by a complaint from the Connecticut Education Association for violating state laws regaring the involvement of school governance councils in education decision making. Vallas was also sued for lacking the prerequisite credentials to become Bridgeport’s superintendent. In November 2013, the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling against Vallas on a technicality. But Vallas had already decided to leave Bridgeport to become the running mate for Illinois’ Democratic governor, Pat Quinn. Quinn and Vallas lost in the general election in November 2014.

And that is where Vallas’ superintendent history stops. And may it remain stopped.

Vallas had his chance to be a commuter superintendent in Louisiana, and it was more than enough.


Schneider’s Picks

Given what I have written above, in this forced-choice situation, my first pick is Cade Brumley.

My second pick is Lonnie Luce.

I have no third pick.


Cade Brumley


My latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, is now available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!


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  1. David Anderson permalink

    Thanks for this insightful summary. I’m finishing my 47th year in public ed in a variety of roles, from 5th grade teacher in Austin ISD to my current position as a lobbyist who specializes in public ed policy. I represent “the public ed establishment”, including Texas’ larger, more prominent ISDs, our fast growth ISDs, and a range of other clients.

    For over a dozen years earlier in my career, I managed sales and marketing in the southwest region for two textbook companies (6 years each), including Texas and Louisiana. I have been so disappointed with what has happened to public ed in the Pelican State.

    I agree with your rankings. As I read the bios, I had a #1, a distant #2, and none beyond. That Joe Siedlecki is a finalist for a state superintendent position amazes me.

    Your posts keep me informed about Louisiana. Thank you.

    David Anderson

    Sent from my iPad

  2. Christine Langhoff permalink

    Vallas? Vallas?
    2020 is turning into “A Journal of the Plague Year” and it’s only March.

  3. Lance Hill permalink

    Good work, Mercedes. What can Gov. Edwards do to pressure the board to select a pro-public education candidate?

  4. Dr. Jane Griffin permalink

    Excellent review and valid points. As a 50 year educator with experience at every level and multiple positions, I feel the superintendent must have successful experience in public education including the classroom.

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