The Louisiana Department of Education today announced interim leadership appointments in the Special School District. Former Lafayette Parish Superintendent Pat Cooper will serve as the Interim Superintendent of the Special School District, 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.
Cooper, who most recently has managed an education consulting business, has held 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.
Gollner has worked at the Louisiana School for the Deaf his entire career, starting as a classroom teacher eventually becoming 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.
The Special School District was established by the Louisiana State Legislature to provide education to students housed in state or privatized facilities and hospitals. The District 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 Department of Education launched a national search for a new Superintendent of the SSD following a report of findings and recommendations for improvements from Education Development Center, Inc. who were contracted by the Department last year after a concern over test scores. The search is ongoing, and applications for the position will be accepted on a rolling basis until the position is filled.
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.