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 most important responsibility of the school board is to operate above reproach. Within this mindset, a commitment to excellence should be experienced in all areas of operation from fiscal responsibility, quality programs, to taking care of the teachers and staff who work within the district. Furthermore, the board has the responsibility of representing the community’s funding priorities and values. Ultimately, it is the students who benefit, as the board works hard to provide our children with an exceptional education.

Regarding the board meetings: I have been to a handful of meetings over the last two years. While I have not attended all of the meetings, I have taken advantage of the YouTube video’s posted by Channel 13. Additionally, I have pulled the documents directly from the school board webpage.

 

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

The Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) is VERY important to the Parish, as it is the formula used to calculate the state and district dollars the school district will receive each academic year. The MFP is distributed in the form of a block grant that is based on the number of students enrolled in each school located in St. Tammany Parish School District. With that said, the deadline for the parish to submit their student numbers is October 15th of each year.

 

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.

Early Education Mandates: ACT 3 legislation transitioned licensed child care centers from the Health Department to the Louisiana Department of Education. This, by far, has been one of the greatest moves made in the field of education for Louisiana because it FINALLY requires academic outcome from these child development centers. Statistics show that the most important years of learning are found within the first five years. Statistics also show that only 60% of our children are adequately prepared for Kindergarten. With the new mandates have come centralized assessment tools such as the CLASS tool and TS Gold assessment that drive quality. As with any initiative, comes cost. There simply aren’t enough funds from the state to meet the need. Therefore, our parish must redirect funds accordingly.

Retirement Plans: Article X, Section 29(L)(2)(a) of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974 assigns the Legislature the authority to determine employee contributions. Employer contributions are actuarially determined using statutorily established methods on an annual basis and are constitutionally required to cover the employer’s portion of the normal cost and provide for the amortization of the unfunded accrued liability. Employer contributions are adopted by the Legislature annually. Employer contributions are used to fund the benefit plans’ unfunded accrual liability. Member contributions range from 7.5% to 8%, and employer contributions of 27.30%. This percentage makes up a significant number within the school budget.

 

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?

Overcrowding certainly creates challenges for our teachers, which directly impacts the quality of the education our students receive. Furthermore, I recognize the fact that citizens may violate this policy in an effort to place their child in the school of their choice. With that said, the district must put forth their best efforts to require proof of residency. Additionally, the board must staff according to the number of students enrolled. If that means more teachers, then they must adjust the budget accordingly. If new schools are required, then the board is responsible for creating a strategic plan to fund new facilities over the course of time.

 

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?

The truth is simply this: it must be made a priority. If an increase in the millage is needed, then yes, we must do that; however, I believe there are several other ways to redirect funds to support the much-needed security initiatives of our schools. We have a $418 million budget. Somewhere in that budget is room for the security costs. Unfortunately, because we cannot see the year-over-year actuals compared to the original budget, this is difficult to see. Therefore, if I get elected to the school board, I will be diligent to make sure these elements are included in the budget. From there, a full analysis can be conducted to redirect funds to security. I am confident we can find a solution within this budget.

 

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 board should accept the exemptions. Our parish is in desperate need of new businesses to drive the economic engine of our community, including our schools. While these large-scale projects represent millions of dollars, they will bring in new employees who will pay taxes. Furthermore, the exemption is limited up to ten years. Ultimately, these exemptions are an investment for our parish that will eventually pay great dividends.