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Lafayette School Board candidates talk important issues | Education | #schoolsaftey


Candidates running for school board discussed alternative schools, charter schools, buses and safety in front of constituents.

The forums, hosted by the Lafayette League of Women Voters, offered candidates for Lafayette Parish School Board districts 1 and 9 the chance to tell voters where they stand on issues.

Mary Morrison, the incumbent, and David LeJeune are running for District 1 and spoke during a forum Monday night at the West Regional Library. Linton Broussard Jr., one of the candidates for District 9, spoke during a forum last week at the South Regional Library.

Brandon Rodrigue and Jeremy Hidalgo, the other two candidates for District 9, did not appear at the forum, despite one of them confirming with the League he would attend. Because of that confirmation, the League continued with the forum and allowed Broussard to answer the audience’s questions instead of its prepared questions.

Candidates for districts 2, 3, 4 and 6 spoke during an earlier forum. Candidates for District 8 had a scheduling conflict and could not attend. Britt Latiolais, the incumbent for District 5, ran without an opponent and was automatically reappointed to the board.

During the forums, candidates were asked a variety of questions about topics important to Lafayette Parish Schools.

School performance scores and standardized testing

The candidates were asked if they felt the school and district performance evaluation system was adequate.

The Louisiana Department of Education measures a school’s performance on several variables that differ for elementary, middle and high schools. Those variables include student progress, graduation rates and achievement on standardized testing.

Morrison said she thought the current system was adequate and that teachers did a great job preparing students for standardized testing.

LeJeune said the system has its strengths – the data it provides about student comprehension – and its weaknesses – that the system is not fair and equitable because of the varying needs of school populations.

Broussard was asked whether students have too many standardized testing days. He said he thought the number of days was reasonable but that it shouldn’t be the only method used to measure school success.

Charter schools

Both LeJeune and Morrison said they did not support the expansion of charter schools in Lafayette Parish.

LeJeune argued charter schools take funding from public schools and take talented students, teachers and support workers. Morrison said she would like districts to have more control over the opening of new charter schools.

Security measures at schools

When asked about the district’s spending on school safety measures, like weapons detection systems and the school resource officer program, Broussard said it was a necessary expense.

Other public spaces, such as airports and football stadiums, have similar measures to protect people so it was reasonable to expect those things to be present on campuses.

“I’m not going to put a cost on my kids’ lives or the lives of other kids just because of the expense of it,” he said. “Unfortunately, our world has become a little reckless when it comes to respecting other people and the value of a life.”

He said he would be willing to research and invest in programs that rely less on uniformed officers in schools.

Air conditioning on buses

The candidates were asked about how they would prioritize equipping Lafayette Parish buses with air conditioning, a topic that spurred a lot of discussion among parents as Louisiana suffered intense heat as school was starting.

Both LeJeune and Morrison said getting air conditioning on buses was a need for both drivers and students. But accomplishing that goal is very expensive.

LeJeune said he would look for excess money in the budget to fund and maintain that goal.

Morrison said the board would need to work out a plan to equip the buses, even if it had to be done slowly with just a few buses at a time. She said in the meantime, the district should look to solutions like shortening the amount of time children spend on buses or having ice chests with cold water and rags on available for bus riders.

Transportation

Broussard said he thinks some of the factors that prevent the district from hiring a robust staff of bus drivers include pay, availability of training and recruitment.

He said, if elected, he would encourage the board to look at what incentives could be offered to new and returning drivers. He also said he would like to look into having aides on buses who could help keep students from being disruptive on buses.





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