Doris Voitier

2007 PICA Winner Doris Voitier with Edward M. Kennedy

Doris Voitier began her career as a math teacher and had served in the St. Bernard Parish public school system for more than 30 years when she was appointed Superintendent in August, 2004. One year later, when every building in St. Bernard Parish was damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, Voitier worked boldly and tirelessly, without help from the state or federal government, to reopen school doors to any student who might return home. With one borrowed computer, no working phones, and no emergency grant money, Voitier took out loans to hire disaster clean-up teams, secure portable classrooms, and rent trailers to house a skeletal teaching staff that agreed to work for reduced pay. Just weeks after the storm, Voitier reopened the first school to some 300 returning students, out of more than 8,000 who had been enrolled in parish schools before the disaster. By August 2007, just two years after the community succumbed to 15 feet of water, St. Bernard Parish will have reopened five school buildings to serve nearly 4,000 returning students. Voitier was honored with the 2007 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in recognition of her courageous fight to rebuild the St. Bernard Parish schools in the face of pervasive devastation and bureaucratic indifference.