District 14 School Board candidates share their views

Published 11:08 am Thursday, September 29, 2022

Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a two-part series on the forum held Monday night for School Board candidates from Districts 14, 6 and 7.

Calcasieu Parish School Board District 14 election candidates the Rev. Desmond Wallace, Gregory “Coach” Gauthier and Jackey Hebert presented stakeholders with their perspectives on school district management on Monday night.

These candidates — along with the candidates from Districts 6 and 7 — participated in a candidate forum hosted by the Calcasieu Federation of Teachers.

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Current District 14 board member Wallace, who is completing his first term, said he hopes to continue his mission into his second term. “I want to continue what you have allowed me to do, and that is to advocate for parents, teachers, faculty, staff and this community.”

Wallace said his primary focuses are integrity and honesty. “One of the things that I have advocated for on the board and working for others is transparency,” he said. “I would really love the opportunity to continue to even open that up more to the community.”

He is also a strong advocate for safety and wellness on school campuses. Wallace’s previous experience in law enforcement has prepared him to do so, he said. He served as deputy sheriff and a DARE instructor. Additionally, he aided in building the Junior Deputy Program and works with McNeese State University in their efforts to develop programs for minority and low- to moderate-income students.

“That was my career, that was my life, serving schools, serving principals, serving teachers, faculty, and staff… so my life has been a life of service,” he said. “I want to at the end of the day continue that here on the board.”

When asked about the essentials of a quality education, Wallace said the No. 1 essential is adequate funding. “Funding is an essential element in ensuring equity as well as opportunities in education.”

In addition to funding, he highlighted the importance of parental involvement in a student’s education. “Last, but not least, is parental. It is vitally important, because if we don’t involve the community, if we don’t include our parents, then we cannot expect them to educate our children.”

He also cited proper curriculum, safe environments, and strong leadership as vital elements of a proper education.

Wallace said he believes in order to efficiently address the challenges of retaining student enrollment, CPSB has to partner with the community and fellow government agencies. “It’s not just a school board issue. It’s a community issue,” he said. “One of the things that we can do is come together and sit at the table of our other governmental agencies.” He noted as SWLA is still on the road to recovery, many areas are still underpopulated. This underpopulation in turn causes low enrollment numbers.

Wallace said he hopes to have the opportunity to “continue making sure that all of you, our parents and community, have someone that will speak for you, hear you and will address issues and situations while also bringing resolutions.”

Gauthier hopes to use the 44 years of educational experience that is under his belt, and is “eager to serve on this community board.”

When asked about his opinion on the role of technology in education, he stated “I think that technology is very important… but there is a need for balance.”

Gauthier advocated for the tangible experiences of checking out library books and participating in science experiments. “I see students in school going on YouTube and watching the experiments. It’s not the same as experiencing them,” he said. “As a science teacher, I think that it’s important to have that interaction between teacher and child.”

“The use of technology might be getting away from the person on person interactions.”

Gauthier emphasized the importance of planning periods. “I believe we have too many programs that are taking away from the planning of the teachers.” He explained that this time is vital to ensure educators have the opportunity to properly prepare themselves to teach efficiently.

In regards to curriculum, Gauthier stated that his philosophy is to pace your curriculum in a way that allows more students to absorb information. “You can cover the curriculum in a year, but only 30 percent or 40 percent of students are learning, or you could take your time and get 75 percent or 80 percent of kids to be semi-successful.”

Overall, Gauthier aims to be a tether between the stakeholders and the school district by utilizing both his educational experience and knowledge of being a parent. “I want to be a voice for the students, the teachers, and the parents.”

Though Hebert is not a SWLA native, her immense love for the area inspired her to run for the school board. She stated that she has noticed a schism between CPSB and the community, and she hopes to mend this. “The things that I see that need to be addressed is the disconnect between our school board and our community,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking some things that you hear.”

“I think that I can bring a bridge to that… there are some things that are missing with our board, and I want to help.”

She stated that if she is elected, she would use her business experience to take a close look at the CPBS budget. “What they are telling me is there is not enough money to do what we want to do, for example, give teachers pay,” she said. “That is one of the areas I would look at. In what area could we look and see where we could make the monies available for the important things that we are doing.”

Along with this examination, Hebert hopes to mend the lack of trust she has perceived between stakeholders and administration. “Unfortunatley, I think there is a trust issues that’s been broken, and I think one of the things that we can do to restore this is to communicate,” she said. “When they are successful in getting those problems resolved is when the communication starts and they work through it.”

When asked about her areas of concern regarding student achievement, Hebert stated that she would like grammar to be a primary focus in lower elementary grades. “We need to make sure that we get back to some basics,” she said. “We need to make sure that our kids know how to read before we pass them… We’re teaching to the test because that’s how our teachers are graded. It’s a vicious cycle.”

In her closing remarks, Hebert stated that there are 11 failing schools in Calcasieu Parish, and that “we have to do a better job for our kids.”

“Across the board, I think that we can reach out to the community to do a better job for our kids.”