Louisiana’s Largest School Board Hopefuls Face Huge Challenges Upon Election

Candidates for the Jefferson Parish School Board, which handles Louisiana’s biggest public school district, identified major challenges they stand to face should they get elected.

Big Challenges Ahead

According to a report by Nola.com, more than 12 school board candidates acknowledged several concerns they must address upon winning a seat.

The district has nine seats up for grabs, with at least four already decided owing to a lack of opposition to the candidates. Those who automatically have seats on the school board include newcomers Kris Fairborn Fortunato and Steven Guitterrez and incumbents Chad Nugent and Clay Moise.

Voting for the remaining five seats began on Oct. 25 and continued until Nov. 1, Sunday. The official election day is on Nov. 8, the news outlet said.

The candidates pointed to school safety, lack of teachers, and aging school infrastructure as the main concerns they must address upon election. 

The Jefferson Parish School Board is responsible for overseeing some 50,000 students in the different public schools under the school district.

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The Candidates

With four of the nine seats already taken by the unopposed candidates, the remaining hopefuls vie for the five vacant seats.

For District 1, Democrat Miguel “Roche” Romar is up against Republican Gerard Leblanc, the incumbent district representative. The district covers Gretna to Westwego, located along the Mississippi River.

Both Romar and Leblanc are educators who have made a career teaching in various educational institutions.

District 2 has three candidates jostling for the slot. The district covers Woodmere and Harvey areas.

The district’s incumbent representative is 65-year-old Ricky Johnson, a pastor at Mt. Olive Baptist Church. Johnson is a Democrat.

His opponents are 54-year-old Maia Yordanov, a former English teacher in Bulgaria. The Republican Yordanov previously claimed that the state’s voting system experienced hacking in the 2020 presidential election, which saw former President Donald Trump losing to Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

The other candidate is John Neal, while a supposed fourth hopeful, Darold Ingram, already said he is withdrawing his bid despite his name still set to appear on the ballot.

For District 5, incumbent Simeon Dickerson has been declared ineligible for reelection by the state Supreme Court. It leaves two candidates up for the position.

Former Louisiana senator and representative Derrick Shepherd, a Democrat, is the first candidate. The other hopeful is fellow Democrat Jessica Bertrand McClendon.

District 6, meanwhile, will see incumbent Republican Diane Schnell, 51, going head-to-head with Democrat Lauren Jewett, 35. They will battle it out with male candidates, Republicans Eric Moore, 46, and Michale Pedalino, 44. 

Schnell is reportedly the first Latina to have served on the school board, Jewett is an educator with 14 years of experience, Moore is a human resources consultant, and Pedalino is a former board member of the International School of Louisiana.

Meanwhile, District 7, which covers Bridge City, River Ridge, Avondale, and Harahan, will have 62-year-old former prosecutor Ralph “Rem” Brandt, Jr. going up against 76-year-old former principal James “Jimmy” Kyrtle. Both Brandt and Kyrtle are Republicans.

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