Attorney, education advocate and veteran educator Shawon Bernard and educator and education advocate Dr. Ashonta Wyatt have qualified to unseat incumbent Kira Orange Jones. District 2 includes significant portions of Orleans and Jefferson parishes, as well as all of St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. James and Assumption parishes.
Shawon Bernard is an attorney and educator who is running to be the voice of the community at an agency that writes education policy. If elected to serve the residents of BESE- District 2, Bernard will make sure children’s, parents’ and teachers’ voices are heard when policies are being crafted, especially in New Orleans, and that the laws and policies that are made reflect what citizens want and need.
Bernard’s priorities as a BESE member would include holding the BESE accountable for ensuring that policy is written, amended, or reviewed to improve or bring about changes that will allow students to succeed; return of all schools to NOLA Public Schools oversight, and the implementation of an education agenda.
She is certified by the Louisiana Department of Education as a mathematics teacher and principal, K-12. She spent 25 years as an educator, teacher, administrator, an assistant principal and principal for the Orleans Parish School Board, Recovery School District and Jefferson Parish Schools. Bernard says she will review how the state is measuring data and ascertain what’s real and not real, regarding the state’s data about school progress and student success.
Bernard’s education advocacy includes trips to BESE, as a member of the John McDonogh Steering Committee for the return of John McDonogh to the Orleans Parish School Board, and she is currently vice president of the Lower 9th Ward Voters Coalition, which works with 42 schools, teaching students about civic responsibilities, holding forums on the importance of voting, and registering students to vote. Bernard is also a member of Engaging New Voices and Voters, Independent Women’s Organization and the Wimbledon Subdivision Neighborhood Association.
She is owner of Bernard Law Firm LLC, where she focuses in the practice areas of Family and Education Law, and she is a qualified Children’s Attorney and Child Custody and Visitation Mediator. She serves as the director of the Family Justice Legal Center and provides free legal services to victims of domestic violence. Bernard, along with attorney Willie Zanders, Sr., sued the Recovery School District, BESE, and the State Department of Education to force compliance with the state’s open meetings law. Along with The New Orleans Peoples’ Assembly and Loyola Law Clinic, Bernard filed suit to hold Sewerage & Water Board accountable for the flooding of the Sixth Union Baptist Church.
Bernard graduated from Joseph S. Clark Sr. High School, earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in educational administration from University of New Orleans, earned a masters degree in computer information systems from Southern University at New Orleans, and earned law degree from Southern University Law Center.
Dr. Ashonta Wyatt is running for the BESE-District 2 seat because she believes educational policy should be dictated and drafted by educators and that’s what’s missing with BESE. Wyatt also wants to prohibit private interests from controlling what happens to public education children, and to stand guard against the greed, corruption, malfeasance, and privatization she sees in the public school system.
If elected to the BESE- District 2 office, Dr. Wyatt will work to give the children of Louisiana a chance at a better education with policies that replicate those found in equitable, student-centered schools, ensure school accountability, strengthen teacher unions, and ensure local governance of publicly funded schools.
Wyatt was reared in the Fischer Public Housing Development and knows what it is to be undeserved, she says. She vows to bring compassion, minus excuses, to her work on the BESE. Children and parents must be respected, and a rapport established to ensure children succeed, she says.
Wyatt favors a return of local control and oversight to the Orleans Parish Public School Board for New Orleans’ 38 different charter school organizations, which have autonomous control over 80 schools. She is opposed to the One App program and vouchers, which are not providing real choice to students and parents, she says. If elected, Wyatt would support policies to change those and other programs, including teacher evaluations, and requiring a one-year residency for entry-level teachers. Teacher evaluations are being used arbitrarily as vendettas and do not protect teachers and the residency requirement should be at least three years, Wyatt says.
Wyatt has worked in education for the past 18 years. She has been a teacher, instructional coach, certified special educator, academic dean, intervention facilitator, an assistant principal, principal and an outspoken education advocate. Wyatt is currently an adjunct professor at Southern University in New Orleans. Her affiliations include the Math and Science Teacher Institute at Xavier University of Louisiana, The Council for Exceptional Children, National Science Teachers Association, Kappa Delta Phi, and Kappa Gamma Phi. Wyatt is the founder and executive director of Mother2Mother, which advocates against gun violence and crime in the city of New Orleans.
Wyatt is a graduate Edna Karr Magnet High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in general studies from the University of New Orleans, a master’s degree in educational leadership from Xavier University of Louisiana and a doctorate in education from Xavier University.