Editor’s note: This is the fifth story in a series on the Lafayette Parish School Board district candidates.
LAFAYETTE — The ballot for Lafayette Parish School Board District 5 includes an incumbent and a newcomer who isn’t a stranger to Acadiana High football fans.
Kermit Bouillion, R-Lafayette, was first elected to the board in 2010 and faces Britt Latiolais, R-Lafayette, who’s known as the “Voice of the Rams” as the announcer for Acadiana High football games for the past 14 years.
Bouillion is a retired educator who taught for 20 years and is a funeral director. His wife is a 30-year veteran educator, and two of his six daughters are teachers. His family ties to education are part of the reason he is seeking another term as a board member, he said. Another reason — Superintendent Pat Cooper.
“I want to continue to work with Pat Cooper to increase our student performance scores,” Bouillion said, pausing to show a piece of paper with the performance scores of schools in his district. The seven schools in his district, which includes the Scott and Judice areas of Lafayette Parish, all saw increases in performance scores in the past few years.
Bouillion said he wants to be part of a board that supports a turnaround plan advocated by Cooper that includes health and wellness programs for students and other initiatives to help the district achieve an A letter grade based on state accountability standards. The district’s current letter grade is a B.
Latiolais said a run for the School Board is an extension of his community involvement and prior military service.
“I’ve volunteered all my life,” he said. “I helped protect my country. I help support my school, and I served my country. I’ve always given back. It also keeps me closer to what my passion is: Acadiana High.”
Latiolais served as a volunteer firefighter with the Judice Volunteer Fire Department. He’s a 15-year veteran of the U.S. Navy Reserves and has participated in four training missions to the Middle East.
If elected, Latiolais said he plans to focus on three areas — boosting early childhood development classes, retention of qualified, experienced teachers, and improving school facilities. He said he’d also like to see the board provide more opportunities for parents who don’t have a high school education but want to take classes at their children’s school. A similar program is offered in his district at Charles Burke Elementary, where there’s also a preschool option to remove barriers for adult learning.
“I’d like to see us continue to grow those,” he said. “I think it would help with parental involvement, which is always a big issue.”
Such programs — especially housed on the school campus — could help parents feel more comfortable and welcome.
Latiolais said the board also needs to find ways to fund facility improvements.
Bouillion said construction of a new elementary and high school for the Broussard and Youngsville areas need to top any facilities to-do list.
He said the new board will need to tackle rezoning schools.
“That’s something that nobody wants to talk about. It’s inevitable. It will have to happen because of the growth in the south side,” Bouillion said.
Bouillion is one of three board members — including Shelton Cobb and Mark Cockerham — who are seeking re-election and continue to support the superintendent even after the board’s other six members voted to accept formal charges against Cooper. On Oct. 14, Cooper will have a chance to defend himself against claims that some of his management decisions were made in violation of state law, board policies and his own contract.
Some newcomers to the School Board election have cited the board’s dysfunctional operations and relations with Cooper as part of their reason to seek a seat on the board. Not Latiolais, though he said voters have voiced their concerns to him about the dysfunction. He said he wants to be part of a board that works past split votes to find common ground.
“Not everybody is going to agree every day,” he said. “If you have a vote that’s 5-4, did the five win and the four lose? Not necessarily. Let’s put that aside and stand up as a group of nine. If I’m in the four, I need to ask: ‘How can I help now that it passed?’ Let’s move forward and let’s go. The bottom line — it reverts back to education and the children.”
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.