Timmie Melancon, a 30-year career retired school teacher, is running for the BESE District 7 seat. Taking cues from her lengthy career and noting trends in educational politics, Melancon told the American Press she feels compelled to run against eight-year incumbent Holly Boffy.
"If you don't stand up when you see something wrong, then you are just as responsible for the wrong as anybody else," she said regarding Louisiana's declining teacher retention rate, lagging student standardized test scores and overall 49th ranking in terms of educational quality.
The state's ever-evolving curriculum changes, work-performance standards and rating systems, Melancon said, are a major contributing factor to "good teachers" leaving the profession. The absence of good teachers, naturally, leads to low performance, she said.
"The teacher evaluation keeps getting more complex, more convoluted. Almost every year they change it. Just when the teachers get good at what they're having to do, they change it. Why are we making it harder for teachers to do what they're professionally trained to do?"
Requiring teachers, many who have been in the field for years, to follow a "script" for teaching is also a contributing ingredient to the state's woes, she said.
"What these reforms, these programs they spend all this money on have proven is that they don't work. But what they are doing is pushing good teachers out of the classroom because they're so discouraged and they're so frustrated."
Instead, she supports returning to certain basics of quality education, emphasizing literacy and putting the most qualified and caring teachers in front of students who are in the most need.
"You learn by your mistakes and the mistakes are really glaring right now. We can never go back because we've been 49th for the last 10 years, so we need to go forward. To do that you determine what's working, what's not working and you focus on that."
Smaller classes, master teachers with supplemented salaries, greater teacher autonomy and a focus on early grade literacy are key components that she believes should be a focus of Louisiana's educational future. She commended Calcasieu's hiring of Marcus Jackson, R3 zone director and the creation of the R3 Zone as an example of the type of systems that can produce true change.
Tax revenue brought in by Southwest Louisiana's growing economy should be used for the creation of even more "golden ticket" ideas like the R3 Zone, she said.
Early voting starts Sept. 28. Election day is Oct. 12.