It’s been a tumultuous summer for Katie Kennison. In the past two months, the school board newcomer was the only member to vote against negotiating a new contract with the East Baton Rouge Parish schools leader, called for Superintendent Sito Narcisse to step down and declared she didn’t “necessarily trust” the school system to keep pupils safe.
Now she’s left her post.
The political neophyte resigned Sunday, eight months into a four-year term, by sending a terse statement to her colleagues: “Dear all, I quit.” She didn’t respond when a reporter knocked on her door in Brookhollow Glen on Monday, though someone there closed the blinds and locked the deadbolt.
The school district did not return calls for comment Monday. Under the law, the remaining board members will name Kennison’s replacement and set a special election to fill a term that expires at the end of 2026. If it fails to act, Gov. John Bel Edwards can name a replacement.
Kennison’s frustrations grew during the summer, reaching a peak when the school board met Aug. 24 to address trouble with student transportation. Drivers upset with low pay had parked their school buses, prompting a temporary districtwide school closure.
Kennison during the meeting questioned whether the district could keep children out of harm’s way.
“My own kids are in EBR schools and I am at the point personally where I don’t necessarily trust the district with my own two kids,” Kennison said. “It’s my responsibility to take care — make sure all the kids in EBR, not just mine — are taken care of and at the very least, just safe.
“We’re not even talking about education here tonight. We’re only talking about the fundamentals of keeping a kid alive,” she said, drawing applause from the audience.
Moments later, she said she had wanted to put a no-confidence vote for Narcisse on the meeting agenda but could find no other members to go along. In her closing remarks, she turned attention toward him.
“I would like to just kindly and respectfully ask the superintendent to take some action tonight and do what is absolutely the best thing you could do for the district tonight which would be to resign,” she said, this time drawing cheers. (He didn’t quit.)
The Baton Rouge Alliance for Students said Monday that it understood Kennison’s frustration with the hectic start to the school year.
“While we understand Ms. Kennison’s frustrations … we remain committed to the work of ensuring that the students of Baton Rouge are better served by their public school system,” said Adonica Pelichet Duggan, the group’s chief executive officer. “We appreciate the dedication of her colleagues thus far, and recognize the important task ahead of addressing both the short- and long-term challenges facing the school system.”
Kennison represented District 8, which has had quite the turn of events in recent years.
To say last year’s election was odd would be quite the understatement. Incumbent Connie Bernard qualified for the contest, but dropped out after it was too late to have her name removed from the ballots and advanced to a runoff despite wanting to give up the seat.
Kennison, then a 41-year-old mother with two kids in the school system, reporting spending no money in candidate finance reports in the days before the general election. An advocacy group stepped forward to help her in the final stages of the campaign.
Bernard was the target of a recall campaign in 2020 after being caught shopping online during a debate over whether Robert E. Lee High School should be renamed because it honored a Confederate general. (It was.)
And in 2018 Bernard was accused of, and later pleaded guilty to, a misdemeanor after an altercation with a teenager at a party.