Meet the Candidates: School Board District 10
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, October 12, 2022
Editor’s Note: Candidates were sent a questionnaire via email.
- GEORGIA “GK” KELLER
Date of Birth: January 25, 1973
Profession/current employer/ retired: Registered Nurse Quality Analyst and Nursing Educator
Why did you choose to run for school board? I chose to run for school board member District 10 to bring about effective change for our school district. We need leadership on this school board that is apolitical and transparent. We need school board members who will listen to the voices of the teachers who do the job and know what is working and what is not working for them. We need to hear the concerns of the parents, business leaders and the community as a whole.
What is our public school district’s No. 1 challenge? Resistance to change. We have a crisis in our school district and the system is broken. It is imperative we change things that are no longer working or effective in our district without retaliation of those expressing change.
What is our public school district’s No. 1 asset? The teachers because they are an important factor in raising student achievement and learning. In addition, the transportation drivers, environmental service/cafeteria employees and all employees of the St. John the Baptist School System who interact and influence the students in their own personal way on a daily basis. Our business owners/community stakeholders because when asked to come together, the answer is “yes” and everyone is always so kind and generous with their time and talents.
What would you like to see improved or upgraded with our public school district? I would like to see resources allocated appropriately and strategically so that we can have a balanced budget. A balanced, sound budget will afford us the opportunity to provide pay raises that are equitable and fair to all who work so hard on a daily basis to educate and provide support to our greatest asset (the students). I would also like to see our public school district align standards, curriculum and policies that are reflective of what is needed for regular education students, our students with disabilities and our ESL (English Second Language Students).
What qualities would you like to see in a new superintendent? The superintendent should set the tone and direction by having an apolitical stance and clear vision for the district. The superintendent should be an active listener and should not be afraid to take risks. He 0r she must be willing to work with members of their leadership team and teachers to set goals and make sure the set goals are achieved.
How do you plan to make a difference? If I am so humbly elected by the district 10 constituents:
- I will go line by line on every contract that the school board has and work toward eliminating the ones that are wasteful. #eliminating #waste
- I will donate my monthly salary (after taxes) to a different school in the parish that will be used for the kids. #giving #back
- I will work toward implementing programs for our special needs students. #they #matter
- I will seek input from parents, students, staff, the community and stakeholders. #express #yourself
- I will seek alternatives for ESL (English Second Language) students by fighting for curriculum changes through (BESE) and testing available in their language. #equal #education
- I will be a school board member for not just district 10 but for all of the students in this school district. #team #work
- NIA MITCHELL-WILLIAMS – INCUMBENT
Date of Birth: January 16, 1979
Profession/current employer/ retired: National School Leadership Coach/ TNTP, Inc.
Why did you choose to run for school board? As a professional educator and parent of a public-school student five years ago, I was experiencing some of the challenges that many parents were facing. Five years ago, I made a commitment to my community, the community that I grew in, to make the public school system better. My commitment remains the same. In my professional work, I have had the opportunity to not only work with, but impact the lives of students, teachers and school leaders in several parts of the state as well as in different areas of the country. Those experiences and connections have allowed me the opportunity to see academic excellence from a different lens. Many of those schools have similar student demographics to St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools. I bring those lived experiences with me to the board table. As a current parent of a public-school student, I have a daily expectation of academic excellence for every student in every classroom every day. The quest of consistent academic excellence for all students in our community is why I qualified for re-election.
What is our public school district’s No. 1 challenge? The district is faced with a few challenges. I think the first and probably most impactful is community trust. Children are parents most prized possessions, and they want the absolute best for them. Community trust wasn’t lost over the last five years, and it will certainly take more than five years to regain community trust. Over 30 years ago, I attended a parochial school for a few years because my parents had some concerns about what was happening in our public schools. In fact, 30 years ago, there were 8 private/parochial schools in our parish and a larger percentage of students were attending nonpublic schools in St. John the Baptist Parish. This trust wasn’t lost over night because of one single incident at one particular school. It’s something that has taken place over decades. It is something that we must work to improve daily. I am committed to improving community trust daily. It is critical that we continue to offer all the diverse academic experiences offered at private/parochial schools for free to the students of families that do trust our school system. Our current district letter grade declined as a result of both the pandemic and Hurricane Ida. We acknowledge that and the district has a plan to address the declines. Despite those challenges, there are several pockets of success and growth in student achievement.
What is our public school district’s No. 1 asset? Our number one asset is our people (students, staff and teachers). Our staff works tirelessly day in and day out to make a difference in the lives of the students in the community. That shouldn’t go unnoticed. This includes every job class. The school district employees almost 900 individuals and is the largest employer in the parish.
Our teachers are lifelong learners participating in state required trainings such as The Science of Reading (required for all kindergarten through 3rd grade general and special education teachers according to Act 108) and participating in trainings to implement High Quality Instructional Materials (Tier 1 Curriculum) to continue to advance their skillsets to address instructional gaps based upon educational trend data. Our students are the reason that we have a school district. They truly are our greatest asset. When we view them for who they are, for what they can do, for the experiences that they have lived and for the dreams they aspire to achieve, then we can truly understand how the future of St. John the Baptist Parish sits in our classrooms. It is imperative that we reminded of this as often as possible.
What would you like to see improved or upgraded with our public school district? I would like to see continued growth and development in our instructional programs. Ideally, a robust system of schools that address the whole child with rigorous instructional programs that included programing such as music and performing arts, STEM/STEAM programs, early literacy programs, a wide variety of Career Technical Education (CTE) programs, gifted and magnet programs. Many of these programs already exist in our schools, but they exist in isolation. I would love to see a district where parents selected the program of study that best aligns with their child’s interest in elementary school that lead to the availability of focused CTE programing in high school that lead to the opportunities for students to earn associate degree while completing high school course work simultaneously.
What qualities would you like to see in a new superintendent? Superintendents are CEOs of school districts. They must be both instructional and operational leaders. With that school of thought, the district would benefit from having a superintendent who is a visionary that is a highly skilled instructional leader, effective communicator and skilled manager of people who has experience managing multimillion dollar budgets that consist of federal, state, and local funding sources.
How do you plan to make a difference? Louisiana Act 1 (2012) is the law that governs school board members. This is the law that limits the duties of a board member. As a board member, I plan to support the vision of the community budgeting the necessary resources to implement the district’s 5-year strategic plan. Additionally, I plan to hold the board’s only employee, the superintendent, to a high standard of excellence by having weekly crucial conversations around stakeholder concerns and board member expectations for academic excellence. I also intend to continue being available to my constituents to address their needs, address their concerns and act as a liaison between the school/school district and the community. My educational expertise is an asset to the school board, and I intend to leverage those skills it to support my fellow board members as we evaluate the superintendent, continue to coach leaders and aspiring leaders free of charge and advocate for parents who need assistance navigating the nuances of individualized school experiences.
- “ROB” TAYLOR JR.