Two Republican women are vying to represent District 7 on the new Lafayette Parish School Board.
The two candidates — Eva Green and Kate Bailey Labue — are running to replace Dawn Morris, who announced she will not be running for re-election after a single term on the board.
District 7 covers parts of Broussard and south Lafayette and encompasses Cpl. Michael Middlebrook Elementary, Katharine Drexel Elementary and Comeaux High School.
Eva Green retired from education in 2010 after 30 years as a teacher in Texas and Louisiana. She ended her career at Lafayette Middle, where she worked for 20 years, first as a teacher for at-risk students and then as the school’s librarian. Today, Green, 67, works as the director of religious education at St. Joseph’s Church in Milton.
Green said she noticed problems within the system and when Morris announced her retirement from the board, she saw an opportunity to make a difference. The retired teacher cited the need for increased teacher autonomy, improved discipline in District 7 schools and increased supports for school administrators as her most important issues.
Teachers need to be allowed to teach the curriculum in a more personal style, she said. When teachers can bring their perspective to the lessons and utilize their professional judgement, they’re more invested and effective in their jobs. They shouldn’t be held to a nearly scripted lesson plan, Green said.
Increasing teachers’ effectiveness also requires support from administrators, and building a strong administrative team begins with selecting a capable superintendent. Green said she would look for someone who can communicate well with all stakeholders, accepts feedback from educators within the system, has vision and collaborates well.
While issues like transportation and facilities improvements are important, teachers are at the heart of every school and need the support to be their best no matter the environment, she said.
“Twenty years from now those kids are not going to remember the halls they walked down or the buses that they caught, they’re going to remember a teacher’s name and a teacher that impacted their life,” she said.
Green said her classroom experience gives her perspective, but she’s not living in the past. She said she wants to innovate and look to other districts and states to determine what best practices can be incorporated into Lafayette schools. While LPSS has many good things happening, there’s always room to improve, she said.
“I really think that things are progressing, but of course there’s always the other side of the coin,” Green said.
Kate Bailey Labue, 41, is a former oil and gas transactional and title attorney and non-profit leader. Labue grew up in Lafayette, left in 1996 to attend LSU for her bachelor’s degree and juris doctor, and returned in 2012 with her husband, Jared Labue, and two children.
Labue said she has an enhanced view of the resources and options LPSS provides because her children attended parochial school and chose to move into the public school system. Her daughter now attends L.J. Alleman Middle’s magnet academy and her son is at Ernest Gallet Elementary.
An involved school volunteer and PTC officer, Labue said she’s passionate about giving back.
“I’m either part of the problem or part of the solution, and to me there’s no better place to try to create a solution than in our public schools,” she said.
Ensuring parents are informed about LPSS’s “choice-rich” environment is a key issue for Labue. She said she’d like to establish a chief communication officer position to have one person proactively communicate about district objectives and successes in the school system. Doing so would help improve transparency and increase the public’s trust in the board and system, she said.
A defined communication plan falls in line with building a strong strategic plan, Labue said. The board needs to be innovative when assessing financing and facilities options to build stability for the future. The board also needs to be proactive about building public-private partnerships and increasing community buy-in, she said.
Labue said her background in grant planning, budgeting, strategic planning and property transactions uniquely positions her to advance the board’s central responsibilities.
“The school system is the largest business in the parish… we need to run it like it’s a business and like the objective is to produce the best students and the best opportunities that we can,” she said.
In District 7, Labue said concerns about effective transportation and rezoning are two of the most pressing issues. Transportation is an urgent daily issue for families and can be a barrier preventing families from entering LPSS or participating in the schools’ magnet program. Frequent rezoning also creates the sense that the area lacks stability.
These are two areas Labue said she’d like to tackle if elected.