The East Feliciana School Board will have a few new faces when the new board takes office next year, but the exact balance of old and new members won’t be decided until the Dec. 6 runoff election.
There is one School Board seat on the ballot. Incumbent Michael Ray Bradford, a Democrat, faces challenger Chris Rouchon, a Republican, for the District 6, Division 3 seat. Rouchon led the way in the Nov. 4 general election with 43 percent of the votes, followed by Bradford with 38 percent. A third candidate, Democrat Janice Betrece, received 19 percent and was eliminated.
Bradford is the current School Board president and has represented his district for nearly 16 years, or four terms. Rouchon previously served on the board from 2003 to 2006.
The two candidates have different views on the direction of the School Board.
Bradford praised the job current board members are doing. “We have improved our academic performance, reduced spending and increased our fund balance,” he said. “The district has also been recognized at the state level the last two years for our academic improvements.”
Rouchon disagreed. “I believe we need to have a lot better leadership starting in the board room,” Rouchon said. “We still have problems with finances, personnel and bus routing issues. We are losing students and they are talking about school closures. Bottom line is the School Board is a business and its money is supplied by all the taxpayers in the parish.”
Bradford said to become more effective, the school community needs to “unite.” On a practical level, the district needs to improve employee salaries and upgrade school buildings, he said.
Rouchon’s suggested changes were more directed at the School Board, saying board members who don’t have the best interests of children in mind should be replaced by the voters. He said board members must “listen to the parents and personnel that you have in place when problems arise.”
Either Bradford or Rouchon will join a board dominated by incumbents. Five incumbents were unopposed for re-election: Broderick Brooks Sr. in District 2, Division 2; Mitchell Harrell in District 3-1; Elizabeth Dawson in District 3-2; Benjamin Cupit in District 4; and Richard W. Terrell in District 6-2. In addition, three incumbents were re-elected on Nov. 4: Melvin L. Hollins in District 2-1; Rhonda Matthews in District 3-3; and Paul Kent in District 7. Three new members were also elected on that day: J. Curtis Jelks in District 1; Derald Spears Sr. in District 5; and Joyce A. Kent in District 6-1.