Our state constitution states that the legislature shall create school boards and provide for the election of their members. It also states that the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, BESE, "shall have no control over the business affairs of a city, parish or other local public school board, or the selection or removal of its employees." BESE got around the above legislation with the passage of a constitutional amendment (vote of people) several years ago, which states "BESE shall have the power to manage and operate a public school which it has been determined to be failing."
A review of the Louisiana Revised Statues defines "failing," prior to Katrina meant being academically unacceptable for four consecutive years. After Katrina in 2005 until 2009, "failing" meant being below the state’s average SPS and being in a school district determined to be "academically in crisis." This was Act 35 and allowed for the takeover of the New Orleans schools. All of these rules and regulation changes were developed and approved by BESE members.
Recently, a reporter from the Lafayette Advertiser requested a response from candidates to a question; "What changes would you support in public education systems?"
Dr. Jim Guillory suggested changes which include: 1. Work to assure that BESE members adhere to their constitutional authority for developing policy. This relates to providing equal opportunity to all children for a quality education guided by certified and qualified teachers as well as competent leadership teams at each school; 2. Review of MFP formula to assure more equity in district funding allocations; 3. Prioritize funding for universal Pre-K to 4th grade programs designed to prepare young children for improved academic achievement. This approach is providing positive information regarding increased academic success as students move into middle and high school curriculums increasing graduation rates, thus leading to a reduction in drop out rates; 4. Address the negative impact of discipline and large class issues as correlated to SPS and grades defining failing schools; 5. Promote the development of educational policies that consist of academic curriculums which prepare students for college bound individuals as well as those who desire vocational education as a career path.
The general voting public is encouraged to select someone who will always be a strong advocate for students and parents. To achieve this, the elected person must be experienced in policy development and have education management credentials, which enable a new BESE member, as Dr. Jim Guillory, to advocate for the following: 1. Reinstatement of the growth factor in the MFP; 2. End of unfunded mandates; 3. Accountability at all levels of management and instructional personnel; 4. Review criteria being used to define SPS and grades for school districts; 5. Assure health and retirement costs are addressed equitably in all school districts; and 6. Review and objectively evaluate all programs for their effectiveness for improving student achievement.
Please remember to early vote and cast a vote on November 19 for children. I am Dr. Jim Guillory #43. My degrees were earned at University of Louisiana/Lafayette, Louisiana State University, and University of Florida, Doctorate in Audiology. I received academic appointments at University of Lafayette, five years, LSU, part-time six years, and University of Florida, three 1/2 years. My public service on the Avoyelles Parish School Board, eight years, ended when I voluntarily term-limited myself. Remember our military personnel in your prayers.
I am pleased to announce that my candidacy for BESE District 8 is official as of qualifying dates September 6-8, supervised by the Secretary of State. My assigned ballot is number 43 as required by law and will also appear on the October 22, 2011 primary election ballot. As many may recall, I am an Independent candidate who has, to date, incurred expenses for this effort to provide a choice to the people for their representative on the BESE.
The primary purpose of BESE is to provide leadership in establishing an agenda for the continuous improvement of public education as measured by student and school achievement. This policy making board also is to be responsible for improving funding of public education as measured by the effective and efficient use of human and financial resources allocated by the Legislature. A review of these major goal's or purposes using data from several sources, reveals that BESE has much work remaining in it achieving their constitutionally mandated job. For example, MFP funding allocations have been cut for the past three years and unfunded mandates continue to be imposed on traditional school districts.
Leadership, as defined by former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, as "not being about wealth, power, or self; it is about being responsible." I am of the opinion that many of the positions being taken by various stakeholders are less about responsibility to children than compared to wealth, power and self.
Responsible reform schooling concepts are occurring in many traditional schools throughout BESE District 8, as well as other regions of the state. A primary responsibility of BESE is to develop and set a policy which encompasses programs which offer great curriculum offerings, student/teacher engagement, reasonable sized classes, balanced enrollments to ensure diversity of demographics, and promote/implement a learning culture of excellence and high student achievement. This is the type of reform model school which has produced extremely positive results in a traditional public school system, without the sole use of selective enrollment criteria.
My campaign efforts have involved discussions with many parish Superintendents, school board members and numerous other interested stakeholders (mayors, city councils, sheriffs as well as other political leaders). I was fortunate to have been given an opportunity to tour a school that has incorporated and implemented a reform model school as described above. It is located in Iberville Parish. Many other parishes are also improving student performance scores (SPS), by using their continued efforts to responsibly change public education programs. This type of effort using present financial resources wisely and talented as well as highly motivated educators, will positively impact public education. A concerted effort by BESE to review its policies and evaluate all present programs, which rewards the performance of various successful Reform models must be achieved to have true Education Reform. Such an approach, my opinion, would enable us to prepare all interested children to compete in a 21st century global job market.
Thank you for reading this article and please exercise your right to vote on October 22. Please review the expressed written positions of candidates and support the person who will place children first over profit motives and/or other agendas. I am Dr. Jim Guillory, (degrees earned at ULL/Lafayette, LSU, and University of Florida, Gainesville) an Independent, committed, and responsible candidate for the education of all children. Please remember to pray for our military personnel and families, especially those in harms way.