POSITION: President of the St. Helena Parish School Board.
EMPLOYMENT: Building inspector for the Parish of St. Helena.
The St. Helena Parish school system is one of the lowest-performing districts in the state. In the past six months, Galmon and the other five School Board members hired a new superintendent, faced an impending financial crisis and dealt with the continued takeover by the state of the school system’s only middle school.
The School Board on May 5 named Kelli Joseph, a magnet principal from St. John Parish, as superintendent. You spearheaded the call for a new superintendent. Why was that necessary?
Well, one of the things that I have been recognizing was that the principals at schools that we visited that had been turned around were young people, visionaries, with the latest and best research. They were not bound so much by politics. They were allowed to choose their teachers and introduce the programs and put in place best practices. I wanted to see the same things for St. Helena.
State Superintendent Paul Pastorek recently resigned. Will that change your relationship with the state Department of Education?
I don’t think it was just one person’s approach. I do know that it seemed that Mr. Pastorek had some disdain for St. Helena. But I am still cognizant of the fact that St. Helena has some work to do to get our students and our schools where they need to be. We are going to do everything we can to foster an environment of cooperation, because ultimately, we’re in the same business. At some point, we have to be on the same page.
St. Helena’s voters have rejected school tax proposals four times in the past five years. How important is getting a tax passed?
It is very important, in that we still lack equity in education in St. Helena. We’re going to have to have a tax because we are going to have to pay teachers, and people that work in education, comparable to the region of the state that they live in. We can no longer float the argument that you can get good teachers for a low price.
How important is getting the middle school back under the control of the School Board?
It is crucial that we become whole again, because at the end of the day, if the state gives us an opportunity to remain at the forefront of educating our children, we are going to see some things put in place that parallel what the state wants and what the state is doing. St. Helena has made plenty of mistakes. One of the things that Mr. Pastorek said to me was that St. Helena lacks credibility. I heard that, and I didn’t like it, but I thought about it, and I saw why he said that.