Meet the Candidates: School Board District Three
Published 1:18 am Wednesday, October 12, 2022
Editor’s Note: Candidates were sent a questionnaire via email.
GERALD J. KELLER, PH.D. – INCUMBENT
Date of Birth: November 20, 1940
Profession/current employer/ retired: Retired St. John the Baptist Parish teacher and prior school superintendent. Nine years as a university professor at Southeastern Louisiana University (Hammond, LA). Ph.D., University of New Orleans.
Why did you choose to run for school board? My administrative experience can and will assist the new school superintendent in developing a school system that addresses the needs of all students. I have always had a passion to help others. I would like to carry that passion into our school system and work as a team to improve the quality of education in St. John the Baptist Parish. If re-elected, I am an asset to the school board, especially, to assist the new superintendent and newly elected school board members. I would like to see through the projects we have started or have been working on over the past several years.
What is our public-school district’s No. 1 challenge? Teacher Recruitment; Stable administrative/teacher staff; Competitive teacher salaries; Open dialogue with school community and business community. Develop a curriculum that fits all students.
What is our public-school district’s No. 1 asset? Students
What would you like to see improved or upgraded with our public school district? Develop a school of performing arts and upgrade and develop the welding; plumbing and electrical programs for non-college students (this may involve working with River Parishes Community College); develop and carry the student studio production program from John L. Ory to East St. John High School; Revamp and upgrade studio production studio at Magnet School (John L. Ory). A sound security system to protect students at all schools. Making sure our special needs students are properly addressed and have the best teachers, aides, supplies and classroom facilities possible.
What qualities would you like to see in a new superintendent? A superintendent is the CEO of a school district. Not only is he or she responsible for supervising and hiring teachers and other administrators, he or she chooses the chief financial officer. So, what are the qualities that make for a great superintendent of a school district? As a superintendent, you must answer to the demands of all constituencies within your district. In the end, you’re guided by one question. What is best for all of the students? A great school superintendent must possess at least three crucial qualities:
Vision: A clear vision of what needs to be done for the good of the district is part of being a great superintendent. Setting the vision, objectives and goals for your district is a must; as is seeing those goals achieved.
Leadership: One’s goal is to make sure that the students in our district are learning and achieving at a high level. A great superintendent is knowledgeable about the best practices for maximizing the achievements of their students as well as giving support to the teachers in their district.
Listening and Communicating: Being a great communicator and listener is among the list of things that make an excellent superintendent. You must take in all the different viewpoints as well as communicate the needs and accomplishments of the District. This means communicating with the media, school events, public meetings and even through written reports.
How do you plan to make a difference? My career in education has been lifelong. I have always put the growth of all students first. Whether as a teacher, school-based administrator, central office administrator, superintendent and currently as a school board member, I have always made decisions that were student-centered. Most important, it is a matter of record that those decisions were always based on objective facts irrespective to someone’s race, creed or origin. I humbly ask the voters of my district to give me four more years to complete my legacy as a transition with the new board members and the new superintendent. As a member of the district’s Land and Facilities Committee, I am in position to monitor the 58 million dollars capital improvement project approved by the voters of St. John the Baptist Parish. My financial experience allows me to work closely with the district’s CFO and purchasing agent.
Date of Birth: 12/09/1966
Profession/current employer/ retired: retired/Saint John the Baptist Parish School System
Why did you choose to run for school board? I chose to run for school board because I know that I can make a difference in the lives of our students, employees, and community. All of our schools have School Performance Scores that are failing and this is an indicator that as a school system we are failing. Change is needed to transform this grim reality of low performance in the schools into a perception of success due to increased student performance. Citizen oversight of local government is the cornerstone of democracy in the United States. By setting direction, establishing an effective and efficient structure, providing support, and ensuring accountability our school board can work together to create a great school district.
What is our public school district’s No. 1 challenge? Our number one challenge is to create policy to enforce a strategic plan that allows checks and balances in all facets of a successful school district: Academics first, Food and Nutrition, Transportation, Human Resources, Curriculum, Maintenance, Transportation, Early Childhood, Federal Programs, and Technology. Once policy is created, then accountability up to the superintendent must be ensured.
What is our public school district’s No. 1 asset? Our number one asset are the employees who are dedicated to the students of Saint John the Baptist Parish. The teacher is the most important factor in raising student learning and achievement. All of the employees in the school system touch our students from central office administrators to school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, secretaries and maintenance men. All of our employees should have a laser-like focus on improving schools to drive up student performance.
What would you like to see improved or upgraded with our public school district? Technology is a crucial asset in a school system that drives all components in a school district and can provide the much needed accountability from finances to student achievement. Ed tech in classrooms improves student performance outcomes, and requires continuous support for teachers and monitoring. We have a critical need for more resources and support for our teachers so that we all are ready for the metaverse which is a virtual – reality space in which users can interact with a computer – generated environment and other users.
What qualities would you like to see in a new superintendent? The qualities that I would like to see are someone with a clear vision, an instructional leader, an effective communicator, a good manager and a good listener. Our superintendent should be vested in our community and become an involved factor in Saint John the Baptist Parish. Our superintendent should be able to ensure that the board is informed about district operations, activities, and needs. The superintendent must be able to handle pressures when emergencies arrive in our community.
How do you plan to make a difference? I plan to make a difference by being an active member of this school community supporting the needs of the students while supporting the employees of the school system as well. I will be transparent and admit when we have faltered so that we can learn from mistakes in the past. I have come to the reality that our school system is broken and I will provide the much needed support to lift up the schools and superintendent in order to raise student achievement by rendering accountability measures to all facets of the school system. I will be hard working, and faithful to the students and employees of Saint John the Baptist Parish while staying out of the politics game. I want to be a positive change for our community in Saint John the Baptist Parish.