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Q. How long have you served on the BPSP, and what made you decide to run? A. Four years ago. I had three children in Bossier Schools, was very active in PTO, was very active in volunteering, being at the schools turned into sort of a full time job. I had parents calling me and I thought that if I could have an impact just in my children’s schools, why not do this for the whole parish? I had worked as a contract occupational therapist for Bossier Schools. Q. Why do you think you’re qualified to serve on the BPSB? A. I have been very dedicated. I have business experience, managerial skills, HR skills, budgeting skills. My husband owns a construction and real estate business and I’ve been around that for 23 years. I understand the business process of construction, the lingo, and what prices are running so that’s been an advantage as I’ve served on the Building and Grounds Committee. Also with the real estate market, I understand where the trends are, where the growth is. Now that I have children from preschool to college, I have a unique insight as to parents, teachers and educators, where we are and where we have to go. Q. Recently, the BPSP considered a tax increase to cushion against cuts in state funding. Do you support a tax increase, cutting spending, or a combination of the two to cushion against state funding cuts? A. Coming though this recent Maintenance scandal, I think we need a time period to regain public confidence. I think we’ve worked really hard on restructuring some of our staff, putting in measures that we’ve lowered the threshold for invoices. The Board now receives a broken down list of each vendor and how much we’ve paid to each vendor. To me, now was not a time to do a tax millage roll forward. I personally would have preferred not to have rolled it back two years ago. I thought we should have kept it, cause I could see where we were going. But once we did that I believe the general public sees that as another increase, even though it’s rolling back to what was adopted by the public. They see it as an increase. I felt that we could better position ourselves by stepping back and seeing where our building was needed and doing a bond issue, which is actually not a tax, it’s just permission to sell our bonds, and it has to be voted on by the public. And we have not done a bond issue since 2004. We completed the elementary schools and the high school. It’s something that in a bond issue, you want to have something for the entire parish. We do have the $20 million plus surplus, that I felt like along the year, we could make cuts in the budget to help make that up. Our sales taxes are growing and this year were $300,000 over this year. I don’t think we’re going to be able to make up the whole $5.5 million up in cuts, but we’ll be able to make some adjustments where it won’t be that amount. Q. What is your position on the BPSB addition of Graduation Coaches, Behavior Coaches, Response for Intervention Coaches? A. I think they were much needed. We really sat down and really looked at the fact that our administration schedule had really not changed since 1970’s, so we were way understaffed.
The requirements and accountability from the state requires us to reach a standard performance score, and there are increments in between years. In noticing that, and of course we want to reduce the dropout rate, I was in favor of the graduation coaches. What we had done was put in a pilot role of such a coach at Bossier High School because they had the lowest SPF scores. Their basic function is to do a final grade analysis for core subjects, to be sure to look at 9th grade students not being promoted to 10th grade, to look at attendance and discipline and in and out of school expulsion rates, and see how that ties in. Of course to me parental involvement is going to be a key. You can get Melissa Manero’s report that she gave to the Administrative Committee on Results of the Graduation Coach Initiative Pilot Study. We also through the Dropout Prevention and Mentoring Program under the career diploma pathway, and the Butler Educational Complex, their Graduation Coaches do monitor attendance, preparation and consultation for 8th grade students, monitoring achievement, job skills. Q. What about the Behavior Coaches and Response to Intervention Coaches? Have those positions been filled. Behavior Coaches and Response for Intervention Coaches positions were also filled. What we did was those were teachers and they were moved over and stayed on a teacher scale. They were not given any increase for doing that. Response to Intervention is primarily at the elementary level. They were targeting children whose scores were lower on the Dibbles test and targeting those children with extra pullout time from the classrooms. Positive Behavior Supporter has been a really big thing and is a big component of Response to Intervention. Q. Did the School Board have to hire new teachers to take the place of those who became Response to Intervention Coaches? A. There were six or seven new teachers based on enrollment. Our projected enrollment was about 200+ students over what we had projected. I’m sure that we did replace those with other teaching positions. Q. What do you believe is the role of a School Board member? A To set policy and procedures and to hire the Superintendent. Q. What are your plans to increase openness and transparency? A. I personally believe that I have been open and transparent. I return phone calls, I answer emails. I try to do that every single day. Any reporter or newspaper, anyone who has called me, I’ve always answered their questions. I think our Superintendent has done a good job of communicating with the media and answering questions honestly. Q. What are the biggest challenges facing the BPSS? A. Because of the federal cuts that continue to be made, is how to maintain a healthy budget and balance the expenditures. Also, the salaries of our teachers are the lowest salary average starting scale of the Southern Regional Average.
Q. What is included in the Southern Regional Average? What exactly is the School Board comparing this to? A. Neighboring parishes. Or maybe it is states. I’ll get back with you on that. When we have compared, what comparisons we have received, it has been the parishes surrounding ours, but I think the Southern Regional Average is actually the lower southern states, but I will find that out for you. I think we need to look at how we are going to be competitive. We did hire 144 teachers through either attrition or through the new positions that I told you about in this current school year. Q. If re-elected, what will be your top priority in your next term? A. To look at another bond issue. To prepare a vision for the next five to ten years. Where are we going to be. We just made a recommendation to purchase land for a new elementary school in Haughton. Have a plan to finish it within a three year period of time. Have a plan, roll it out and be ready to go. Growth is the main issue in Bossier Parish. Q. Are there areas in the BPSS which you believe could be better served by privatization? A. We have had in 2007 a look at privatization of the busses and that was not going to be good thing for us at that time. That would be something I would have to explore. Q. What specific measures have you taken as a School Board member to provide greater protection for BP school children? A. We have SRO officers at all of our high schools and middle schools. We have just started a process where we have storefront entry ways where people can only enter the schools through one area. Central park will be the first to have that. There is a roll out plan for all the elementary schools. All of our busses which run daily have cameras and we are in the process of getting DVR cameras on all of them. The Sheriff’s Department have deputies come by and sit in the parking lots to fill out reports and be visible in the system. Q. What areas of wasteful spending in the School Board budget have you observed, and what measures have you taken to address waste? A. I don’t know if it was really waste, but there seems to be overspending in the building projects. We’ve looked at professional fees, and looked really hard at things that we could do smarter and wiser like grouping projects. This is where my building and construction experience has helped. We asked for the qualified construction bond that we could group the five wing additions together as 1 project to bid. It came in about $1.4 million under what we expected. And that’s because you could have bigger companies come in and bid. They get better pricing because they can bid more in quantity. We have a good elementary school plan. So why do we need to pay an architect for another one. Take the one you have and adapt it. Don’t have 18 more months of planning, for professional fees. We’ve looked at project overseer and manager, bringing that in-house to try to control some those fees. We’ve gone to electronic bidding to open it up to more vendors. We work with the Police Jury with the paving projects to help save money.
Q. What additional areas of concern in the budget you would like to see addressed? A. Paving projects. We’ve developed a formula for 8 individuals come in and rank those upcoming projects, rank those first on liability and safety. Prioritizing the 10 projects to see what we have available for that. We’re always looking for ways to bring more technology into the system. There is nothing really in the budget to replace technology. We have added at $20 per student technology fee, a couple of years ago, that goes to each school, but that does not touch the price of computers. Any money that we can get from grant sources is less money that we have to take out of our budget, so we’ve done really well with grant writing. Q. What is your political party affiliation? A. Democrat Q. With what part of your party’s platform do you most agree, and with what part do you most disagree? A. I registered as a Democrat at 18 because that’s what my parents were. I don’t really get involved with a lot of parties. I try to research the individual and vote for the individual who mostly aligns with what my belief system is. I really don’t think that the School Board is a place for politics for Republicans or Democrats. I don’t see that it has a huge impact. So, I vote for the individual. Q. What is the primary source of funding for your campaign? A. Myself Q. Would your current job allow you the time to attend SB meetings? A. Yes, I have 100% attendance for the past four years. I have attended 130 out of 131 committee meetings. I have attended probably 95% of the administrative interviews even though I did not have a vote. That was the most important thing I could do to be sure that the integrity of the interview process was there. There is a lot of discussion that goes on behind those doors as to who is the best, and I can tell you that the cream always rises to the top. Q. What is the extent of your knowledge of the LA Open Meetings Law and the LA Public Records Act? A. I think that we’ve done a good job of being open to the public, the public requesting to speak, and they are allowed to speak at our meetings on any agenda item with relevant information. We do ask if there are several members there to speak on one topic, that they would select someone to be their representative. We publish our documents on the official journal, the Bossier Press Tribune. We put out our meeting notices there, send them to the press. All the current School Board members should have a good idea because we went through extensive training on the Open Meetings Law and the Public Records Request Act. That is very important, and everything we do is public. Every vote we take we have to do so
in public. Under Executive Session there are only very limited circumstances when that occurs. Q. Do you agree of disagree with concerns that the School System transfer policy is inconsistent and inequitable? A. There are certain things where the transfers are out of our control, and I know that Miss Hayes has to follow, there is a whole process. I’ve been the chairman of the Administrative Committee twice in the past four years, which is where all those appeals come to. Minority, M to M transfer is one way of a legal transfer, which is where if the student is a majority they can change to minority. We also have child care tending. So a child Kindergarten through 6th grade can transfer if they have child care tending. For example, in Plain Dealing there is no child care available, there is not after school programs, there is not a day care center. So any parent outside of the Plain Dealing area and does not have family there, and if the child goes to a day care in Bossier City, their child can do to the school in the district in which the day care is located. But it’s an annual thing and you have to fill out a form yearly. There are also means for children who have special needs that are not available at their home school they can be transferred there. There are some things where that Miss Hayes had to just automatically deny and those have to be appealed to the Administrative Committee. Some of those we do overturn and some we do not. I have heard that there are inequities going on and I have asked that Administration be provided a list of every transfer, and if they are granted a transfer, why? The Board only sees the ones who appeal to us, so we only may see 15 a year. We never see the other transfers. The Board is only provided the information on the ones that appeal. That’s the only ones that we would even know about. I have asked for that list to be provided to the administration, the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent. But I don’t know if that list exists. I don’t know if there is compiled list. I’ve asked for that to be done. Q. As you know there was controversy surrounding the appointment of D.C. Machen to Superintendent of Schools, for whom did you vote to replace the former superintendent and why? A. I voted for Mr. Machen. We had a very intense Superintendent search and intense interview process, and it was strung out over a period of weeks. We formed a community panel and it was made up of an LAE representative, a local pastor, BAFB Colonel, Scott Hughes with the Alliance for Education, a local businessman, the bus driver representative, a retired principal and another pastor. They sat through our whole process. They did not have a vote, but they had input. In the beginning there were a lot of different opinions about who should become Superintendent. And the majority of the community panel felt that it should be Mr. Machen. After sitting through the interview process and speaking to several of my constituents who had also sat through the process, they felt he was the best candidate. He has 35 years experience and had the vision to restore the confidence in Bossier Parish Schools. He does not back down. He is there to present to the public. He is open to the media which is very important. No one could argue that his knowledge stood out above the rest, along with his experience, I feel he was the best person for the job.
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