Calcasieu School Board Candidates Discuss Issues Ahead of Election
Posted at 5:05 p.m. on Tuesday, September 20, 2022
The Calcasieu Teachers’ Federation held its second School Board Candidate Forum on Monday, inviting candidates from Districts 10, 11, 12 and 13 to appear.
Alvin Smith, who represents District 10, said his extensive education and experience has helped him understand “the value and the need for our children to be valuable commodities.”
“We represent a wide range of children, those with special needs, those who are gifted,” he said. “We must make it a priority to reach every child in our public school system.”
Hurricane recovery and student retention are Smith’s primary concerns. “Over the past two years, we have lost many students and families to the circumstances we have faced,” he said. “We’ve been working hard to make sure families can come back to our area and bring their children and students back with them.”
He also stated that he was a strong supporter of the public school system, as opposed to the charter school system.
Smith said amid building hurricanes, more effective security systems can be implemented.
“As we continue to improve and repair the damage caused by the storm, we need to create a diversity of understanding … that we are putting very safe zones in place.”
“We often find ourselves thinking that our schools are not safe. Basically, in certain circumstances they might not be,” he said. “Overall, Calcasieu Parish may have incidents here… even a few this year, but we cannot review them and determine that will be the yardstick for the whole district.”
Tony O’Banin is running against Smith in District 10. He said his goal is to “restore some trust and good relations between the board and the employees,” by “breaking things down in the lamest terms.” simpler”.
“We all want students to have a safe and comfortable learning environment, but I think one way to achieve that is to make sure teachers are happy,” he said. “I think we should ask teachers and employees for their input, but also listen to what they say and not just ignore what they say.”
Asked about his top concerns about student success in the district, O’Banin said “talking to people in the trenches” is a necessity.
“I think we need to talk to the people involved,” he said. “We need to give teachers, administrators and employees all the tools they need to do their job.
To ensure CPSB’s transparency and accountability, O’Banin said he wants to create more publicly accessible financial resources.
“The budget is on the website and is public information … but it’s very difficult to find information in the budget,” he said. “It’s hard to get the information you need at a glance, and I think that’s where we need to improve and improve things.”
He said one specific financial issue he would address is CPSB insurance policies. “I’ve looked at health insurance, and what’s paid at Blue Cross Blue Shield versus the employee share that comes in and how that breaks down, and I’m going to get with an internal auditor.”
Another major concern for O’Banin is the flexibility of educators, especially when it comes to the curriculum.
“There’s a limit to what we can do on the program because of state mandates…we have a bit of flexibility, but I don’t think it’s enough,” he said. “I just wish we had more flexibility to let our teachers teach.”
Phyllis Ayo is a candidate for District 11 headquarters. As a retired educator and current member of the Calcasieu Federation and support staff, she said she has the insider perspective needed to enrich the CPSB .
“I’ve been attending school board meetings for five years. I observed what happens and what does not happen. I have been in the classrooms daily talking to teachers, administrators, support staff, bus drivers, guards, secretaries; I have them all,” she said. “It’s not just a job. It’s a passion.”
Ayo, she’s already noticed possible areas for improvement, and she’s “ready to sign up for the job.”
If elected, she said she would speak out to bring about change and promote honesty with stakeholders. “I have no problem speaking up and letting you know what’s really going on. I’m not afraid and I’m not a typical politician.
Asked about her stance on technology in the classroom, Ayo said that while technology is important, there is a need for CPSB to “get back to basics”.
“You have to know how to write. You have to know how to do math,” she said. “Technology is important, I’m not going to say it’s not, but I don’t think it should take precedence over the essentials.”
Ayo advocates teacher evaluations that are not based on student test scores, guaranteed planning time for teachers, and an updated code of conduct. Teachers’ uninterrupted planning time is a major concern.
“I think it’s important to make sure the board enforces that the principals make sure our teachers get 45 minutes, unhindered. They put more and more of it on the teachers’ plates and give them less and less time,” she says. “It’s priceless, you need this time.”
For Ayo, a key achievement the board could achieve with his help is ensuring fair compensation for teachers and staff. “We have to find the money to pay our teachers what they are worth.” She said if elected she planned to seek funding through cuts, such as reviewing high-paying duplicate positions.
“I think it is high time to have an educator on the board,” Ayo sadi. “I will not only be a member of the school board, I work with all my heart. It’s my job. This is my passion. It’s my goal.
District 11 candidate Derrick Trahan was not present at the forum.
District 12 Representative Russell Castille said his passion for improving the school system stems from the many educators in his life. “You hear a lot of things going on,” he said. “I love students, I love kids, and that’s what I’m in for.”
Castille said that as a current board member, the school board’s role is to be “the governing authority over the school system in the parish of Calcasieu.”
“We adopt policies, we ensure that these policies are followed and implemented to the best of our ability,” he said. “So in essence, we govern anything that comes under the superintendent. We review this and ensure they are implemented by the superintendent and staff. »
For Castille, the essential elements of a quality education are an appropriate learning environment, an appropriate parental environment, an effective program and highly qualified teachers.
The synergy between school and home is important, according to Castille.
“Does the student feel safe, loved and encouraged when they go to school? If he doesn’t, we have to change something within the school, be it the administration, the teachers,” he said. “We need to do a better job of trying to get our parents involved. We need to do everything we can to get those teachers, those students, those parents, those guardians all on the same page.
Castille said that when it comes to the curriculum, it’s important to make sure the progression of learning is efficient and logical by “making sure that we go to 2 plus 2 equals 4, and that 4 times 4 equals 16, and that the pursuit of steps to increase their knowledge.
Good communication is key to ensuring the Calcasieu Parish school system has highly qualified teachers, Castille said. Through communication, the CPSB can provide “teachers with the tools and resources needed to do their job”.
“If we are not, we need to know. Sometimes we don’t know about these things unless we are told… So we have to have communication between everyone.
District 12 candidate Georgina Graves considers herself “first and foremost a lawyer.”
Graves was inspired to run after learning that students at her children’s school who were unable to pay their tuition were unable to participate in the field day. “Isolation is one of the coldest things you can do to a human, let alone a child,” she said.
For Graves, considering the mental health of students is paramount, especially when it comes to disciplinary action. “I think there are some transgressions that have happened in school that don’t warrant a child being handcuffed,” she said.
She thinks that while the bullying is “horrendous”, there are other options to explore that deviate from the zero tolerance policy. “Do we go in with a counselor or a mental health professional and see that someone made this child feel helpless, and therefore someone else had to feel helpless?” she asked. “Because surely this bully is going to suffer academically and socially.”
“These are things we can build on with mental health professionals, instead of going straight to harsh disciplinary action, like expulsion or the ZT policy.”
Graves aims to stop teachers paying out of pocket for school supplies by using his 25 years of marketing experience to partner financially with local businesses, create peer mentorship programs across the school system, and fight for increase the salaries of teachers and support staff.
She also plans to institute community closets in each school. “The majority of our parish currently lives in poverty…so some children come to school without deodorant or shampoo,” she said.
That’s not all Graves has planned should she be elected. “When I am elected, I will organize bi-monthly meetings with the teachers, with the families and, hopefully, once per semester with the children,” she said. “That way we can get an inside scoop.”
Billy Breaux, District 13 representative, was present at the forum. Due to candidate George VanderHey dropping out, Breaux won the seat unopposed. He gave of his time to the other candidates.
The final CPSB Candidates Forum will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, September 26 at Machinist Hall in Lake Charles. Candidates from Districts 5, 6, 7 and 14 will be present.