Retired teacher, education expert and activist Lee Price Barrios and incumbent James Garvey, both Republicans, are vying for the District I seat of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

BESE District 1 includes St. Tammany Parish and parts of Orleans Parish.


October2015.inddLee Price Barrios is a retired teacher and journalist with very clear ideas on the direction public education needs to take for children and parents to have the opportunities they deserve.

“My special interest is not big money,” Barrios says. “My special interest are children and moving public education forward. I went to public school. My children went to public school. My grandchildren go to public school.”

Her first order of business, if elected, is to work with other BESE members to appoint a new state superintendent of education.

“One who is qualified with a vision for public education—not privatization,” Barrios says. “Education reform is just a huge money making market. If we have four more years of this, public education is done.”

Other planks in her platform include: returning local control of schools to democratically elected school boards and ending the “misuse of high stakes standardized testing.”

The changes won’t happen overnight, Barrios says, but they will happen.

“Just cleaning up the mess is enough, then to move forward and fix things—it’s not going to be quick and easy.”

Barrios turned to education in a mid-life career change when her children began to progress through the public education system.

“As my own children began to go through the public education system, I began to question things. But I didn’t know enough about it, so I decided I would just become a teacher.

A certified 17-year educator with a master’s degree in secondary education, Barrios says she has expertise she cannot let go to waste.

Among other priorities she would work to address is the call for a “complete investigation and audit of the state Department of Education and charter schools in Louisiana.”


Repeated attempts by The New Orleans Tribune to contact this candidate were unsuccessful.


Current BESE District 2 representative Kira Orange Jones, the executive director of Teach for America in Louisiana, faces a challenge to hold on to her BESE seat from Kara Washington, a St. Charles Parish public school administrator with significant ties to both Orleans and Jefferson parishes. BESE District 1 includes parts of Orleans and Jefferson parishes, as well as some or all parts of St. Charles Parish, St. John Parish, St. James Parish, and Assumption Parish.


October2015.inddKira Orange Jones says she running for a second term on BESE to continue to make a difference in the lives of students and teachers of Louisiana, adding that during her tenure she has “voted her conscience and tried to operate with integrity.”

Orange Jones, whose first and current BESE campaign enjoy great financial support from out-of-state backers that are a part of the national push to reform public education in ways that lean toward privatization, says she understands community concerns regarding just how well reform efforts are working.

“I don’t think it’s perfect. But I do think we need to be solution-oriented.”

Orange Jones believes that while progress has been made during the last four years there is still work to do in key areas such as attracting qualified teachers, providing greater access to “high-quality” career and technical training and improving the access to high-quality childhood programs.

She also says she is sensitive to community concerns surrounding the state control of local schools, particularly in Orleans Parish, where most of the schools operate under the control of the Recovery School District.

“Now is the time for our community to have a very real conversation about return,” Orange Jones says. But she doesn’t think there should strict timetables that control when a school returns.


October2015.inddKara Washington, a St. Charles Parish Public School educator and administrator, says she is running for the District 2 BESE seat because she sees herself “in every poor Black child in Orleans Parish.

“I was raised in the Fisher (Housing Development),” she says. “We were poor. I didn’t know it then. But I remember (my teachers) and what they poured in to me and the hope they gave me. We have people in our classrooms right now…because they can’t find a job in their degreed area.”

Washington, who graduated from public school in Jefferson Parish, says if elected, her first order of business will be to focus on New Orleans and the deleterious policies that have negatively impacted public education, starting with returning public schools to the local school board.

She also plans to initiate a comprehensive audit of charter schools and the Recovery School District, beginning with finances.

Making sure every classroom in New Orleans has a “certified teacher that attended a school of education” is also at the top of her platform.

“You’ve had 10 years of this charter debacle. If not now, then when?” says Washington, who adds that her candidacy for BESE is also about supporting public school teachers and administrators, who have also become the target of misguided reform efforts.

“I entered this race to reform the policies that have been implemented in public education over the last four years with the goal of destroying public education,” she says. I know what they have done in the past four years to implement policies that set schools, principals, and teachers up for failure.”

Washington has also taught in public schools in Jefferson and Orleans parishes and is working toward her doctorate degree in education.

“I entered this race because I am qualified.”

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