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?

The primary job of a school board representative is to actively participate in the development, implementation and maintenance of infrastructural policies and procedural processes that ensure the students of St. Tammany Parish receive the best and most relevant education available.

Equally important, is the responsibility to be fiscally competent, well informed in education trends and embracing of an ever-evolving world.

I am running for a seat on the board because I believe our current board is intent on preparing our children to compete in a world that ceased to exist with the advent of the internet.

Our current curriculum is preparing our kids to get jobs that won’t exist when they graduate. I want to expand the vocational and STEM training programs in the St. Tammany School systems.

We should be teaching our students the skills necessary to conceive, build and maintain the robots that will be doing the jobs we are preparing them for.

We should be preparing our children to work on flying cars…Even McDonald’s is automating, so eventually: A first job at a fast food restaurant… will be a thing of the past.

The current board doesn’t seem to understand how dismally they are failing our children.

As a parent with 4 children in ST. Tammany Parish schools, I do my best to attend most school board meetings. While, I don’t keep a calendar, I estimate that I have attended at least eighteen of the last twenty-four meetings.

 

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

In very simple terms, the Minimum Foundation Program is the formula used to determine the per pupil costs to educate students across the state of Louisiana. While it is a complicated process, once implemented, the formula determines:

-the per pupil costs of education by parish.

-the State of Louisiana’s contribution to those costs.

-the local parish’s contribution to those costs.

 

According to the budget posted on the School Board’s website:

-The total budget for the 2018-19 school year was $416,690,186.00

-Of that, $212,344,407.00 (almost 51%) came from state sources and the majority of that 51% comes from MFP.

-$203,828,180.00 came from local sources (almost 49%)

-$517,599.00 came from federal sources

-We spend approximately $10,692.30 per student a year of that the state pays about $5453.07

 

MFP is important because more than 50% of the Board’s total funding comes from the State of Louisiana, and the Minimum Foundation Program is the process the State uses to determine the amount of revenue it will send to St. Tammany Parish each year. Any changes to the formula significantly impact our ability to provide a quality education.

 

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.

I would answer this question by saying that a “mandate” is a “mandate”. It is a law, a requirement we must accomplish. So, I fail to see the point of discussing one “mandate” over another.

I take the position of the School Board’s 2018-2019 theme: Together, “We Will’ do what it takes to prepare Every Child, Every Day for a successful tomorrow.

Accomplishing the theme is going to take new vision, under new leadership. Our schools need to be represented by people that think in terms of “AND” rather than, “OR”.

We need leadership that understands “there is more than one way to skin a cat” and is committed to exploring and taking advantage of new revenue sources.

Leaders who can see beyond the MFP or the millage.

As a board member I will make it my mission to see that the board exhausts every possible option before we even discuss raising the millage.

But, when it is necessary I will support a raise if it is vital to maintaining the quality of the education STP schools provide

 

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?

As a school board member, I will be advocating for a complete and total audit of our system’s methods and practices. It is my goal to bring the St. Tammany school system into the 21stcentury.

Please allow me to answer the second part of the question first. 55 schools for 39,000 students is too many buildings and the money we would save by consolidating the properties would seriously allow us to expand academic and extra-curricular programs.

Before I could reasonably answer the first part of this question, I would need to know several things, which would include:

  1. How widespread is the problem?
  2. Without the “out of district” students, what would enrollment figures look like at each of our 55 schools?
  3. Is there overcrowding in some St. Tammany Schools and under-usage in others, because it is a cumbersome and expensive process to redraw the district boundaries?
  4. Is it time to redraw districts?
  5. What would the impact of losing the state portion we receive for those students be on our overall budget.

Without knowing those things, I am not prepared to give an informed answer. I am however, willing to say that:

As a mother who has educated six children through public education, I certainly understand the lengths that some parents go to trying to secure a good education for their children. That includes enrolling their children in schools outside the boundaries of where they live because they believe schools outside of their districts offer a better education. Honestly my heart goes out to them and their situation

The reality is, the “out of district” policy was enacted decades ago, to ensure that St. Tammany Parish has the resources to properly educate the children that live in the parish. I am not so sure that it is prudent policy today.

Every year the Board struggles to make tough decisions about what programs can be cut because we don’t have the resources to fund all of them. As a tax paying citizen of St. Tammany Parish, I am morally outraged that parents from outside the district illegally register their children in our schools because our schools are for our children.

But as a steward of a $417,000,000.00 annual budget, I must ask myself… is it time to revisit the policy?

On the face of it, it might appear that “out of district” students are a financial drain on our system. But, keep in mind, each one of those children brings an additional $5500.00 each year in state funding.

We all must ask ourselves can we afford to lose those funds because of a policy that may or may not be relevant to our situation today.

 

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?

Before I answer the question, I must say that it was completely irresponsible of the current board to take on the expense of the resource officers without having a plan to fund them going forward.

That said, the safety of our children is more than a concern, it must be our number one priority. As a board member if there is no option, other than raising the millage, I would support a raise.

 

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?

This is not a “one size fits all” question. There are many factors that must be considered when an exemption vote comes before the board. In addition to the immediate effect on the annual budget, before I felt comfortable making a vote, I would need to see data regarding the long-term costs to the board and benefits to the community.

I propose a process in which a hearing is held for each application. The hearing would be held separately from the regular school board meeting, so there is adequate time to gather all the information necessary to make an informed decision.

The applicant would be allowed to give a presentation outlining the benefits the exemption brings to the community.

Community individuals and groups in opposition, would be given equal time to make the case against the exemption.

After testimony has been taken, the board would go into executive session to discuss the issue and a vote would be taken at the next regularly scheduled board meeting.