What do you see as the main job responsibilities of a school board representative and how many school board meetings have you attended in person in the last two years?

I believe the main job of a school board representative is to be informed, be involved, ask the right questions, try to find the answers, and make suggestions and decisions based on what is truly BEST for our students.  Some ways I believe we can accomplish this is building relationships in the schools.  It is crucial to communicate with administrators, teachers, parents, and students. To see and know what is going on first hand. I believe we need to listen to concerns and weaknesses from our school community while striving to find resources and solutions to help change and strengthen them (concerns and weaknesses).  School Board Representatives should be current, active, and understand how policies effect our students, our teachers, and our families.

 

What is the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) and why is it important to the St. Tammany schools?

It is our state program used to help fund public education. The state uses a formula to determine the cost to educate a pupil. The state then contributes a portion of that amount to the district and the rested is funded locally.  The local contribution is determined by the amount of property and sales taxes collected. It is very important to our schools.  Without state funding, we would not be able to operate to the capacity that we do.  Our local budget would have to change drastically to keep our schools running.  It would negatively effect our entire community, not just our schools and families with children.

 

The state has imposed numerous unfunded mandates on the St. Tammany school system. Discuss two of these mandates and how they affect the school-operating budget.

Any mandate put on the school system that is unfunded puts strain on the budget and takes away from another area.  This makes it more difficult for teachers to the best job possible.  It causes program cuts, pay raise freezes, lack of supplies in the classroom, and so much more.  One example could be the PARCC test.  This new testing was mandated and not funded.  Not only is this test more expensive than the previous, most schools needed to spend a large amount of money of the computers and technology needed to administer and take the test.  When this happens it forces the School Board to make unwanted cuts in other areas to find the funds for the new mandate.

 

Tammany has an “out of district” policy that states a student must attend the public school in the district where the parent/ guardian owns a home and claims a homestead exemption or has proof of rent or lease.  There have been reported cases in which the policy has been violated.  A by-product of the policy violation is the overcrowding of some schools and under-utilization of others. Do you think anything should be done to balance the enrollment and reduce the need for more buildings? If so, what?

Currently, an out of district student has to receive a letter of approval to attend an out of district school. It is decided on a case by case basis.  I definitely think there needs to be a fair method in the decision making for all who apply.  However, I do feel letters should be issued.  There are many valid reasons a child may need to attend a different school.  It may be a transportation issue, or the need of an after school sitter, it may be closer to the parent’s work or a grandparent’s home because the parent works a far distance, it could be because of a program offered that would better serve their child, maybe there is a bullying or behavioral issue and the child needs a new start. It is my belief that the child will learn and grow better, the parents will be more involved and supportive, when they are in an environment they feel meets their needs.  I believe requiring a student to attend their district school, when the parent doesn’t want them to, often leads to students going to private schools and being homeschooled.  I do understand the overcrowding issue.  I realize we cannot overcrowd schools or classrooms, but believe adding more rooms and teachers to a crowded school is better than losing our students. I also believe we need to get the truth about why they don’t want to attend their district school and find ways to solve the issue, if possible.

 

A major concern to parents and voters is the safety of our children while they are in our care at school.  By the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, all 55 schools will have a school resource officer (SRO) funded by FEMA and the BP oil settlement.  These funds will eventually expire.  Would you favor increasing the school board tax millage to cover this cost or do you have another suggestion for coming up with the money?

Safety for our children and our teachers is very important.  I believe we have made great strides to securing our campuses and being proactive.  I think it is wonderful that we have SRO’s and MHP’s at every school.  I feel the benefits are great!  However, I would not be in favor of raising or adding taxes to keep them.  If it is a millage renewal, I would be in support.  We pay high taxes in St. Tammany.  We have a good operating budget.  I know it is never enough and we could certainly use more, but I don’t feel adding new or higher taxes is the answer.  I think we can search the budget, look for grants, or revisit the programs to see where we could cut costs.  For example, I feel elementary schools don’t need a full time SRO.  Maybe they can share or they don’t need one at all.  It isn’t because I think bad things don’t happen at the elementary level, but the campuses aren’t as large and are easier to secure.  Also, the MHP is such a needed role, but again I do not feel every school needs one every day.  They could service multiple schools depending on each school’s need.  I believe school counselors to be allowed to counsel students and not serve in an administrative capacity.  When I first started teaching counselors went into each classroom every week and taught lessons. They pulled small groups to counsel and counseled individual students.  Now, they are busy handling testing, going to testing in-services, in IEP’s, and doing many other administrative duties.  If we had the counselors with the students more there would be less of a need for full time MHP’s.

 

The Louisiana Industrial Ad Valorem Tax Exemption program allows school districts to reject exemptions that decrease the tax revenue available to the school board. What action, if any, should the school board take in compliance with the current law to adopt new policies and standards for industries seeking tax exemptions?  Do you think the school board should accept or reject most exemptions?

The program allows for specific industries, related to manufacturing, to apply for property tax exemption at 100% for the first five years and the ability to renew for an additional three years at 80%.  I personally believe the decision for allowing or rejecting these exemptions should be decided at the state level as it has always been.  I feel the protocol for decision making would be more streamlined, instead of each parish deciding, and I believe they see a bigger picture of economical development in our state.  Since it is now at the parish level now, I would think granting the exemption to industries that qualify would be most beneficial for the economic development of our community. I believe it would benefit the schools and students in the long run.  The exemption can be for 5-8 years.  Then they would pay taxes.  It would be wonderful for the schools to develop partnerships with these companies and create programs such as skills training and internships for our students. This would also create more jobs for local families and graduating students. It makes me sad to see so many of our local businesses closing.  This incentive seems to be a smart way to bring new businesses in.