Evelyn Ware-Jackson and Connie Bernard, the president and vice president of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, are letting their colleagues know they’d like to stay another year as board leaders, but they are likely going to face opposition when the board votes Thursday night.
David Tatman, who served as board president from 2013 to 2015, says he’s interested in getting his old job back. And in the race for vice president, Dawn Collins, who was elected to the board in early 2016, says she’s interested in that position.
The board is meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday at the School Board Office, 1050 S. Foster Drive.
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Selecting leaders used to occur every other year, but in January 2017 the board agreed to pick those individuals annually from then on.
Ware-Jackson said she has a number of unfinished items during her one year at the helm that she’d like to continue working on, including redrawing attendance zone lines to bring children nearer to their home schools and changing start times so that older kids don’t have to go to school so early in the morning.
“I’ve expressed to the board that I’m willing to serve another one-year term as president, but as you know I serve at the whim of the board, so you never know,” said Ware-Jackson.
For his part, Tatman said he’s not making a “hard push” to return to the board presidency and said he’s not upset with Ware-Jackson’s leadership, but he said he has shown he can lead the board in the past and is willing to do so again.
“I feel like I have a skill set,” Tatman said. “I feel like we have a lot of things coming up in the next year.”
Bernard said Wednesday that she would like to remain vice president.
"I get along pretty well with everyone, treat people with respect, and try to do a good job," Bernard said. "I want what is best for our students and the community as a whole. I will continue to work hard to accomplish our goals here in EBR. I appreciate the opportunities I've been given."
Since the fall 2010 election, the board has been divided between a majority that is backed by business groups in town, including the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, and board members supported by teacher unions and other traditional public education supporters. Since then, all the board’s presidents, including Tatman and Ware-Jackson, have come from that business-backed majority.
That majority increased to a supermajority of 6-3 after the 2014 elections and since then every East Baton Rouge Parish School Board president and vice president has come from their ranks.
The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday is set to elect a new president to succeed Barbara Freiberg and to appoint someone to rep…
Both Vereta Lee and Kenyetta Nelson-Smith, who are part of the three-member minority on the board, say they see no point in trying for a leadership post this year as they have in the past.
“I’m not going to be fighting to be in no leadership spot if I don’t have four other people supporting me,” Lee said. “I won’t embarrass myself.”
The third member of that bloc, Dawn Collins, who is black, said she is willing to try. She said, among other things, she’d like to bring more racial diversity to the board leadership, especially if Tatman, who is white, wins the presidency back from Ware-Jackson, who is black.
“It’s imperative to have balanced representation,” Collins said.
For many years, the board had an unofficial agreement that it would if one board leaders was white, the other would have to black, and vice versa. The board deviated from that in 2015 when it made Tatman and then board member Barbara Freiberg, who are both white, its leaders.
“They don’t know how important it is during this election year for us to show diversity in our leadership,” Lee said, who is also black. She was referring to the April 29 election when the school system plans to seek a renewal of a 1-cent sales tax earmarked for education.
Lee, who joined the board in 2007 and has never been president or vice president, said other school boards make a point of naming leaders who have not held leadership spots before.
“Let someone who hasn’t served get a chance,” Lee said.