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Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco joined faculty, staff and distinguished guests in officially breaking ground for the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development today. The Picard Center is the latest addition to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Research Park and will be located beside the LITE Center on East Devalcourt Street.
Named in honor of former State Superintendent of Education Cecil J. Picard, the 40,000 square foot building is expected to be completed within 2 years at a cost of approximately $7.2 million dollars. The state-of-the-art complex will include the Loyd J. Rockhold Distance Education Conference Center, an archive of Superintendent Picard’s memorabilia, a research library and a data and technology analysis unit. In addition, the Center will house the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s program in counselor education, the Center for Innovative Learning and Assessment Technologies, the Educational Foundation and Leadership Department, the Center for Gifted Education, and the Department of Psychology.
The Center has benefited greatly from the generous donations of Mr. Loyd J. Rockhold and the Special Children’s Foundation including the Loyd J. Rockhold Endowed Chair, the Paula Chavers Rockhold Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair in Child Development, the Special Children’s Endowed Professorship and a $2 million donation towards the construction of the new building. Additionally, the Center receives support from the Cecil Picard Endowment through the Community Foundation of Acadiana.
“ I can think of no better way to cement Cecil Picard’s legacy than to continue the groundbreaking work he began with early childhood education,” Governor Blanco said. “Cecil was a firm believer in giving our children a good early start, and I was proud to help continue that vision by expanding access to Pre-K for Louisiana’s at-risk four-year-olds. This center will ensure generations to come will benefit from an understanding of what young minds need in order to grow, investing that expertise to provide new opportunities for our children.”
“ It is with great pleasure that this center is located in the University Research Park and it is even greater that it is named for a man who was a champion for early education. The research that will be conducted here will be a testament to what Cecil Picard believed in – improving the education and lives of our children,” said UL Lafayette President Ray Authement.
“ Cecil Picard knew his purpose in life was to impact the lives of children by offering them the best possible education available,” said Tyron Picard, son of the late Cecil Picard. “He knew that this would both advance their lot in life, and provide the business community an educated and literate workforce. His final career battle was the creation and funding of this Center at his alma mater, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. This building and the staff it houses will be a resource for educators nationwide, as it tracks longitudinal data on children from birth thru age 25, evaluates the efficacy of Pre-K programs, and seeks to address the peripheral factors which inhibit learning, such as poverty, mental illness, and access to health care,” noted Picard.
The Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development was established in 2005 at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette after five years of development. The mission of the Center is to improve Louisiana by focusing on its children. Currently housed in temporary offices in O.K. Allen Hall, the Center employs approximately 20 evaluation and research professionals who focus on areas including early childhood and K-12 education, health and life-long learning.
“ We are incredibly appreciative of Governor Blanco’s commitment to this project,” said Center Director Dr. Billy Stokes. “The Governor and her administration made this Center a priority in the budget and we will deliver on our promise to become a leader in educational research. Together, and with the leadership and vision of President Authement, the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development will soon make its permanent mark on this city, this state and this nation. We are so proud to be a part of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette family.”
The staff of the Center is probably best known for evaluating programs including the state’s Early Childhood Education Program-LA 4, Reading First, K-12 Literacy, Coordinated School Health, Before and After School Programs, School-wide Positive Behavior, the Office of Addictive Disorders’ Prevention Program and the Caring Communities Youth Survey. National collaborations include work with the RAND Corporation on the “Children of the Storm” report. As the Center expands its scope of work, it will focus on tracking children’s educational progress in Louisiana from birth to age 25, making it one of the premier child development centers in the country.
“ We are well on our way to becoming the national model for child development centers,” said Dr. Stokes. “With the access to data we currently have, we are undoubtedly the best resource for educational information in the state of Louisiana. We are so anxious to see this new building become a reality because each of us is dedicated to making the lives of children in our state better. It’s our passion.”
Cecil J. Picard was the third longest serving State Superintendent of Education in Louisiana history, and the catalyst for many nationally recognized educational initiatives including Louisiana’s Accountability Program and the LA 4 Pre-K initiative. Picard headed up Louisiana’s education system as Superintendent from 1996-2007. He began his career as a teacher, coach and principal in Vermilion Parish and later served in both the Louisiana House and Senate.