Cantillo, Taylor take their messages to St. James voters

Published 11:45 pm Friday, December 5, 2014

By Stephen Hemelt

GRAMERCY — District 1 residents still have business to decide in St. James Parish, where voters are choosing today who wins the region’s lone school board runoff election.

Incumbent Diana Cantillo earned 464 votes (37.75 percent) in November, but faces a serious challenge from Paul D. Taylor, who secured 383 votes and 31.16 percent of the turnout.

Darren Brack finished in a close third place with 382 votes (31.08 percent).

Cantillo is pitching to voters that they can count on her proven commitment to the area’s children through efforts already visible in the school district, while Taylor sees the election as a mandate for change for a district he describes as stagnate.

Cantillo said she was particularly proud of the school district’s career education initiative called Jump Start.

“I am very pleased with the superintendent communicating with industry, and we’re working with the kids at the high school to educate them, along with whatever career they would like to go into,” Cantillo said.

Taylor said parish residents’ expectations for their school district must increase, adding, if elected, he will focus on that improvement.

“If you read the paper a month or two ago, it had that St. James was a B district, but if you average the grades of the department of (education) of all of our schools, there is no way you can get a B.

“I want to make sure all the kids, even the under-performing kids, raise their level of scholarships so that they can make sure that the whole district rises up.”

Citing a trend he saw voters demonstrate by electing four new candidates in November to the St. James Parish School Board, Taylor said he hopes District 1 voters turn out again to make their voices heard.

“The community is telling me, as I go door to door, that it is time for a change,” Taylor said. “Change is not change until it has been changed. We have to see it through ’till the end. My mantra right now is I want to finish the deal.”

Cantillo speaks of a different response.

“I’m hearing positive remarks from a lot in my community,” she said. “But yet, many out of my community are telling me they would vote for me if they lived in Gramercy, which really touched my heart.”

Cantillo said she would continue to be committed “all day, every day to do the job representing Gramercy in our school system.”

Taylor said until the parish’s weakest students perform better, it would continue to drag down the grades of the whole district.

“When families are looking for a place to move to, let them come to St. James because we have a premiere district,” he said, adding he wants to offer that to those looking to the parish as a future home, calling it “the best economic development plan we can have for St. James Parish.”