A pair of candidates with professional ties to the Livingston Parish school system will square off on the Nov. 4 ballot to represent District 8 on the School Board.
The district is the largest in the system, covering French Settlement, Springfield, Maurepas and vast unincorporated areas in the southeast portion of the parish. Since 1987 it has been represented by Keith Martin, who decided not to seek re-election.
The new representative will be either Democrat David Hoover, a school bus driver and former owner of Hoover’s Grocery, or Independent Jim Richardson, a one-time principal who led parish elementary schools for 14 years.
When asked to identify the most pressing issue facing the district, both candidates provided the same answer — increasingly crowded schools.
“This is a fact: we are growing. What are we going to do about it?” Richardson asked.
The School Board has purchased land off La. 42, and Richardson said he wants to determine how the system can afford to build a new campus to alleviate the crowded Springfield High.
Dozens more freshmen will arrive next year than seniors will graduate in May, Hoover said. He described Springfield High as “bursting at the seams,” with the cafeteria already running out of room at lunch.
The Springfield district purchased about 86 acres near the intersection of La. 42 and La. 43 about six years ago, Martin said. However, no specific school construction plans have been drafted. The cost for a new high school is difficult to estimate because the community will have to make decisions such as whether to include a middle school campus or build new athletic facilities, Martin said.
He estimated the price would start at a minimum of $15 million to $20 million.
Whoever wins in November will have to determine how best to fund an expansion project.
“It costs a lot of money (to build a school),” Richardson said.
He hasn’t determined the best course of action for funding, but suggested issuing bonds as a possible solution.
Hoover said taxes would be necessary to pay for the project, though he isn’t sure what the precise rate would be.
“I’m not a huge tax person, but I do think education is one of the things our taxes have to go toward,” he said.
The two candidates had similar views on a number of other issues.
Both oppose Common Core, but said they would uphold its standards if elected.
Neither took a side on the ongoing Section 16 lawsuit winding through the legal system. The case involves whether the government or private individuals own tracts of land near French Settlement. By law, Section 16 lands are meant to benefit public education, though ownership of parts in District 8 are in dispute.
The candidates said they were unprepared to back either side, saying it was a complex and touchy issue.
Richardson and Hoover are each hoping to sway voters with their experience, including their work with the school system they hope to lead.
Hoover owned and operated Hoover’s Grocery in Maurepas for 17 years until he sold it a year ago. While the state dictates curriculum, the School Board is tasked with ruling on policy and managing finances, he said. Hoover believes his business background has prepared him for the task.
He also is aware of the logistics of transportation as a bus driver for the system. He has held the position since February and drives an Albany-area route.
Richardson, meanwhile, touted his experience as an educator for 28 years. He spent 17 of those years in Livingston Parish and served as the principal of French Settlement Elementary and the inaugural principal of Gray’s Creek Elementary, which he helped design.
If Livingston Parish decides to build a new school, he hopes the community will look toward his expertise to open and transition into a new campus.
After retiring from the system in 2012, he took a position as director of Southern Pines, a retirement community in Walker.
The candidates have other qualifications — Richardson was a high school football coach and has served as a pastor for about 20 years, while Hoover formerly served on the parish Planning Commission and now sits on the Amite River Basin Commission.
Hoover is a graduate of Maurepas High School, though his children attended private school in Baton Rouge. Richardson grew up in Washington Parish, while his two youngest children graduated from French Settlement High.
School Board President Malcolm Sibley has praised both candidates and said he would be pleased with either as a new member.
“We’d be glad to see either of them on the board,” he said. “They’re two fine gentlemen.”